Why the 14th Amendment Remains Relevant Today

Why the 14th Amendment Remains Relevant Today


You can’t logon to Facebook, Twitter, or any other news or social media site today without seeing a headline about Donald Trump and his criticism of the 14th Amendment. Many conservative sites cheer what they perceive as Mr. Trump’s firm stand against the means through which illegal immigrants gain a foothold into American society. One reason that so many conservatives seem to support Mr. Trump’s bid to alter the 14th Amendment has to do with crime. Some conservatives allege that some individuals who enter our country illegally, do so in order to avoid facing justice in their countries of origin. It is the belief of Mr. Trump, and many other conservatives, that by disallowing citizenship to children born in the United States to parents who gained entrance to this country illegally, that we’ll be taking away the “anchor” that tethers parents with a criminal nature to the United States.

But who is committing the bigger crime? Though the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was was part of the Reconstruction Amendments ratified by Post-civil war America in an effort to cement the rights of children born to African slaves living in the United States, this Amendment improved lives for everyone in the United States. Prior to the ratification of the 14th Amendment, United States citizens could not expect sanctity of their life, liberty, or property from their government. When this amendment was signed into law, it guaranteed (for the first time,) that before the US government could deprive someone born in the United States of life, liberty, or property, it had to submit to due process of the law. In other words, a United States citizen could not be put to death, incarcerated, or have their property seized by the government until a court determined that it was appropriate to do so. The 14th Amendment also guaranteed “equal protection” under the law. Prior to the ratification of this amendment, if a United States citizen was accused of committing a crime, he or she had to pay for his or her own defense. After this amendment was accepted into law, all American citizens were accorded a defense; regardless of their ability to pay.

If Congress were to do as “The Donald” wishes, and repeal the 14th Amendment, US citizens would no longer have right to representation in court. This means that middle-income families would stand to lose entire life-savings in the effort to defend themselves against a government with unlimited access to funds to prosecute them for their crimes. It would mean that the most poverty stricken families in the United States couldn’t even afford a defense. But that’s if the government allowed the accused a trial. If the 14th Amendment was no longer law, the government would legally be able to seize property, incarcerate individuals, and even put people to death, without having to stage a trial.

Though we can’t argue that accepting immigrants into this country (illegal or otherwise,) means that we won’t ever have to deal with crime from the immigrant population, we also can’t argue that we’ll never have to deal with crime from the citizen population, either. One thing we can argue is that when facing our government, each of us counts on the opportunity to defend ourselves and our property in court. It’s the 14th Amendment that guarantees us that right.

Written by Angela Sluder