A Day Without Latinos

Today is being organized as A Day Without Latinos where some Hispanics did not go to work, did not send their children to school, and boycotted businesses.

On my way to work, I noticed a rally of hundreds of people kicked off at noon today at Marshall Park in Charlotte. Some were waving American flags while others held signs that read: “No Ban – No wall. Stay united”, “Stop Racism” and “We are not criminals.”

It made me curious as to whether or not those people here illegally had an unqualified right to free speech. On May 7, 2015, the Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers in the Federal District Court in San Antonio, Texas, argued that immigrants who are not legally admitted into the United States do not have free speech rights under the First Amendment.

If the DOJ is right, that would mean that millions of unauthorized immigrants in the United States could be censored or punished for speaking their mind, thereby undermining their ability to participate in the debate over important issues, such as immigration reform and the Dream Act. Moreover, since the First Amendment covers more than speech, the DOJ’s argument has implications for other fundamental rights, including freedom of religion.

There may be good reasons to argue that freedom of speech should apply to everyone in the United States, but there is little definitive case law on point. In fact, there are instances where the Court has permitted the Federal Government to single out disfavored political groups, at least in the context of deciding whether to exclude or deport a non-citizen. Pineda Cruz et. al v. Thompson et al., 5:15-CV-00326, (W.D. Tex. 2015). Despite dancing around the edges of the issue, courts have not definitively decided whether non-citizens have freedom of speech when they are in the country unlawfully.

Ironically, I received my citizenship today. While studying for the test, I noticed that one of the questions read “What are two of the rights of everyone living in the United States? “ and “Freedom of Speech” was one of the right answers.

As a Latina I stand in solidarity with all of my fellow immigrants who came to this Country following the law. However, I understand that millions of immigrants have come to this country in pursuit of basic rights. I understand that rights such as freedom of expression, of religion, of speech, and the right to bear arms, which are the foundation of our Country’s character, are critical to ensuring a formidable, autonomous citizenry. Those rights, however, should come with the same duties imposed on citizens; such as paying taxes and obeying the laws.

Written by Shirley Garrison, Paralegal, Licensed Bolivian Attorney

For more information on Constitutional rights, contact Parton Law.