Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Constitution’

12th July 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the often venerated alternative media outlet ZeroHedge.com has posted an analysis of issues pertaining to a proposed change to the forms used by those seeking a US Passport. To provide further insight it is necessary  to quote directly from the Zero Hedge website, ZeroHedge.com

In the US, the government now requires all citizens to have a passport in order to pass the border, even when driving into Mexico or Canada. Obtaining a passport, however, is neither free nor guaranteed.  You must apply, pay an ever-increasing fee, and wait for weeks to be approved and receive it. Recently, the State Department quietly proposed a new ‘biographical questionnaire’ in lieu of the traditional passport application. The new form requires you to provide things like:

- names, birth places, and birth dates of your extended family members
– your mother’s place of employment at the time of your birth
– whether or not your mother received pre-natal or post natal care
– the address of your mother’s physician and dates of appointments
– the address of every place you have ever lived in your entire life
– the name and address of every school you have ever attended

Most people would find it impossible to provide such information, yet the form requires that the responses ‘are true and correct’ under penalty of imprisonment. Naturally, the privacy statement on the application also acknowledges that the responses can be shared with other departments in the government, including Homeland Security. If this proposal passes, then US citizens will have a nearly insurmountable hurdle to obtain a passport and be able to leave the country at will…

The administration of this blog asks readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted prior to this excerpt. Also, it is advisable to click upon the hyperlinks contained within this quotation in order to understand this situation in context.

Each year, many Americans traveling abroad, or those Americans resident abroad, renew their passport at an American Citizen Services section of a US Embassy or US Consulate abroad. It has always been this blogger’s opinion that personnel of the Department of State who handle such matters do so in an efficient and courteous manner. Meanwhile, many United States Citizens opt to seek passport renewal in the USA. This blogger has undertaken both endeavors and in each case the officers involved processed the request quickly and with little difficulty. Although it remains to be seen how the proposed questionnaire would actually impact the processing of passport issuance requests one can hope that the process will not become overly cumbersome.

In news pertaining to the struggle for LGBT Equality, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that a woman in the sovereign State of New York is challenging the legal status and Constitutionality of the provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). In order to provide the reader with some relevant insight it is necessary to quote directly from an article by Mark Hamblett for the New York Law Journal posted on Law.com:

Challengers to the federal Defense of Marriage Act insist that every justification offered by Congress for defining marriage exclusively as between a man and a woman is contrary to logic and the law. In summary judgment papers filed in the Southern District of New York, lawyers for Edith Schlain Windsor argue that there is no good reason for treating her marriage to the late Thea Clara Spyer any differently than a heterosexual union. Read Ms. Windsor’s motion and memorandum. Ms. Windsor’s lawyers call the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) a radical measure and a clear violation of the right to equal protection of the laws under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “DOMA is a sweeping statute that rewrites over one thousand federal laws and overturns the federal government’s long-standing practice of deferring to state determinations of marital status,” the lawyers claim in a memorandum asking Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV for summary judgment in the case of Windsor v. United States, 10-cv-8435. “Throughout history, the federal government has never married people, leaving that to the states…”

This blogger asks readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read about this case in detail.

Those unfamiliar with the current predicament of the LGBT community should note that in immigration matters same sex bi-national couples, even those who have entered into a same sex marriage in one of the sovereign American States which legalize and/or solemnize such unions, are unable to petition for the same immigration benefits as their different-sex counterparts. In order to attempt to remedy this particular discrepancy Representative Jerrold Nadler recently introduced legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). The Respect for Marriage Act was also introduced by Representative Nadler in order to remedy the issue of “certainty” in such cases. As of the time of this writing, neither of these bills has seen enactment although there has been recent news that the Senate Judiciary Committee may be holding hearings pertaining to the Respect for Marriage Act soon. On a related note, the Reuniting Families Act, which apparently includes UAFA-like language, was lately introduced by Representative Mike Honda although passage of this legislation remains to be seen.

There is certainly an “equal protection” component to any argument against DOMA, but relatively few commentators seem to take note of the fact that the way DOMA is currently enforced may also violate notions of States’ Rights. Generally, matters pertaining to the prerogatives of the Several States are debated by the United States Congress before enactment of legislation which maintains interstate compliance with the provisions of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution. In this case, Congress has arguably abrogated the notion of Full Faith and Credit inherent in the provisions of the Full Faith and Credit Clause since section 3 of DOMA effectively renders the prerogatives of the sovereign States ineffective when it comes to the issue of same sex marriage.

The issues associated with DOMA have yet to be fully resolved, but it seems likely that these matters may remain contentious both inside the Courtrooms of America and elsewhere.

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11th June 2011

Something very troubling recently came to this blogger’s attention. This posting must be prefaced with a statement for posterity: the vast majority of American civil servants are upright, honest, and conscientious employees of the American State and Federal governments who try their best to assist and provide valuable services to the American public. Their hard work should not be overlooked especially in this current era of virtually instantaneous communication.

One of America’s strengths stems from her flexibility and versatility in a political, foreign relations, and geopolitical context. In a domestic context this international flexibility is hard won as it generally stems from fierce national political and legal debate. The following is quoted directly from the website MyFoxDetroit.com:

ROMULUS, Mich. (WJBK) – The Mandy family says they were on their way to the happiest place on earth (Disney), but had to go through hell to get there. “I realize they’re trying to keep people safe, but come on, does he look like a terrorist?” said Dr. David Mandy. The family was going through security when two TSA agents singled Drew Mandy out for a special pat down. Drew is severely mentally disabled. He’s 29, but his parents said he has the mental capacity of a two-year-old, which made the experience that followed at metro Detroit’s McNamera Terminal that much harder to deal with. “You have got to be kidding me. I honestly felt that those two agents did not know what they were doing,” Mandy told us. Dr. Mandy claimed they asked Drew to place his feet on the yellow shoe line, something he didn’t understand. They proceeded to pat his pants down, questioning the padding which was his adult diapers. When the agents asked Drew to take his hand and rub the front and back of his pants so they could swab it for explosives, his dad stepped in and tried to explain that Drew was mentally challenged. “They said, ‘Please, sir, we know what we’re doing,’” Mandy said. The TSA agents saw Drew holding a six-inch plastic hammer. “My son carries his ball and his hammer for security. He goes everywhere with (them),” said Mandy. The TSA it seems saw the toy as a weapon. “He took the hammer and he tapped the wall. ‘See, it’s hard. It could be used as a weapon,’” Mandy explained. “So, Drew’s also holding the ball, and I said, ‘Well, how about the ball?’ He (said), ‘Oh, he can keep that.” Dr. Mandy was told he would need to have the toy shipped if he wanted to keep it, a process which caused them to almost miss their plane, so he pitched it. “It just killed me to have to throw it away because he’s been carrying this like for 20 years,” Mandy said…

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks above to read more and also view the video of the interview with this man’s father.

The so-called “Transportation Security Administration” (TSA) is, quite simply: a travesty. This story is absolutely heartbreaking.

Continuing, there is a poignant film from Hallmark Hall of Fame entitled: The Boys Next Door. This film is mentioned because the narrative of the film chronicles the lives of a group of mentally challenged men who are simply trying to live their lives like any other Americans inherently endowed with the privileges and/or immunities of American Citizenship. Their fictional trials, tribulations, and treatment at the hands of greater society provides illumination about what freedom means for people of all backgrounds in the United States and across the globe. There is a very salient moment to be taken from this film in the context of these current events. Perhaps it may be best to quote directly from a critical article written by Hal Boedeker, Sentinel Television Critic, on February 4th 1996 and posted on the website of the Orlando Sentinel, OrlandoSentinel.com:

The movie also spells out its good intentions. Jack imagines feeble-minded Lucien telling a state senate panel: ”Civilizations are judged by the way they treat their most helpless of citizens. And if you turn away from me, you extinguish your own light, deny your own warmth.”

The administration of this weblog encourages readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this article in full and gain further insight. Furthermore, viewing this film may be insightful as well, under the circumstances. For a relevant video clip please click HERE.

The reader needs to recognize that Mr. Mandy, like all Americans, is endowed by his creator with certain inalienable rights and one of those inalienable rights is the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures pursuant to the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution. How is it reasonable, America, to believe that a man in Mr. Mandy’s position should have his 4th Amendment rights stripped without just cause? Was there probable cause to have these rights stripped? Were there exigent circumstances? What security interest was upheld by trampling upon this man’s liberty? More importantly, how can Mr. Mandy’s public servants have the audacity to treat him with such disrespect when, in reality, it is their job to serve and protect HIM!!!! For if not him, then whom? Furthermore, is not Mr. Mandy accorded an unfettered right to travel pursuant to both his State and United States Citizenship? Finally, would it be unreasonable to posit that Mr. Mandy may be entitled to some just compensation for having a treasured item, which apparently had been literally held for twenty years, taken and thrown out pursuant to a questionably lawful search?

This story was acutely difficult to read because the victim of this injustice is the same age as this blogger. There is an old saying: “There but for the grace of God, go I.” Simply put: were factual circumstances different, this could just as easily have been this blogger or any reader in this audience. That stated, I would hope that if I were mentally disabled my civil servants would comport themselves in such a way that facilitated my travel and aided me in my distress (as one can only infer that this incident caused this man considerable distress and consternation since having one’s “pant’s patted down” AKA: being groped, is upsetting for anyone, especially Americans who are used to their government, usually in the form of bonded peace officers; respecting their privacy and right to be free from unwanted searches, seizures, and molestation by American governmental agents).

Whatever excuses or apologies that TSA wishes to extend regarding this incident are irrelevant for they have committed an irrevocable violation of this man’s Constitutional and Human rights, but this issue goes deeper as these are the servants of We The People and therefore it is upon us as Americans to recognize this problem in order to make attempts at redressing it via either election, legislation, or even; perhaps, a possible legal decision.

At the level of the sovereign American States, it would appear as though further efforts are being undertaken to curtail the questionably legal activities of the TSA.To quote directly from the official website of the Examiner, Examiner.com:

The federal Transportation and Security Administration may have thought it had the last word in its battle with the state of Texas over a controversial bill that would make airport pat-downs a criminal offense. The fight, however, is anything but over as the state Senate prepares take up the bill for the second time. The bill, HB 1937, would make it a misdemeanor for TSA personnel to touch “the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person including through the clothing.” The penalties for violating the law would be a $4,000 fine and up to a year in jail…

Readers are asked to click upon the hyperlinks above to find out further details. Frequent readers of this blog may recall that Texas was recently the scene of some tension regarding these issues as the Texas Senate became the recipient of what would appear to have been significant federal pressure operating against similar legislation which was previously submitted. It also appears as if the sovereign State of Texas is not the only State which may be looking at such legislation, to quote directly from the website of STGNews, Stgnews.com:

SALT LAKE CITY – Representative Carl Wimmer (R-Herriman) opened a bill file today that, according to his website post,  “will prohibit TSA pat downs in Utah without reasonable suspicion. Texas needs us to stand with them.” Taking a hint from what Texas has sought to enroll in her laws, this suggests that Transportation Security Administration agents, on site at Utah airports, may become subject to the same criteria that other law enforcement officials must meet before performing a search upon a person…

The administration of this web log highly recommends that readers click upon the above cited hyperlinks to read this story in detail.

As it appears that the sovereign State of Utah is now joining the chorus of those calling for legislation regarding the curtailment of TSA abuses. It remains to be seen whether any such legislation will actually see passage. It seems likely that this is not the last we have heard on this issue.

– Benjamin Walter Hart

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1st June 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the administration of President Barack H. Obama is poised to take a more commonsensical approach to issues pertaining to United States Immigration. In order to shed further light upon this issue it may be best to quote directly from an article entitled New Common-Sense Immigration Reforms to Strengthen Our Economy written by Aneesh Chopra & Alejandro Mayorkas and posted on the White House blog at WhiteHouse.gov:

President Obama recently reaffirmed the urgent need to fix our broken immigration system, so that America can compete and win in the 21st century.  Immigrants make extraordinary contributions to our economic well-being, as demonstrated in study after study. For evidence, you can turn to recent analyses from the Treasury Department, the bipartisan Partnership for a New American Economy, or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Or simply visit Silicon Valley.  Aneesh participated in a roundtable yesterday hosted by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group where nearly half of the executives in the room were immigrants. They were unanimous in their call for action in the high skilled area — a top priority for the group, along with a new service campaign to connect the  best and brightest in the Valley with  kids in need.  But they were also frustrated with our inability as a country to tackle these issues as it has been several years since they began such conversations.

Aneesh did review the White House’s Blueprint for Building a 21st Century Immigration System, reinforcing what they already knew — that our economic competitiveness would be strengthened by a legal immigration system that reflects our values and meets our diverse needs…

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click on the hyperlinks noted above to read further from this insightful piece.

This blogger is personally anxious to see a new common sense strategy employed in the administration of America’s immigration system. In a previous posting on this blog it was noted that the Obama administration in conjunction with Senator Amy Klobucher have taken steps to move forward on legislation designed to reform certain aspects of the American visa system. This initiative appears to be undertaken in an effort to generate further revenue for America in the form of tourist dollars. Furthermore, there are some who would argue that a reform of the immigration system would result in an increase in foreign direct investment in the USA as foreign nationals travel to America on visas such as the E-2 visa or the EB-5 visa in order to engage in trade or start a business.

Credit where credit is due: the administration appears serious about making positive changes to the US visa process and for this reason their efforts to that end should be admired. However, not everyone is enthusiastic about every aspect of the Obama administration’s policies and procedures as was recently discovered by this blogger while surfing the internet for information regarding the recent Patriot Act Extension. It would appear as though the issue of the Patriot Act’s extension is not the salient point for some as the President’s method of “signing” the recent legislation has been called into question. To quote directly from an article written by Benjy Sarlin posted on the website TalkingPointsMemo.com:

President Obama’s use of a mechanical “autopen” to sign the new PATRIOT Act extension from abroad has at least one Republican lawmaker worried about a “dangerous precedent.” According to Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA), using a machine to sign legislation could one day bring about a dystopia in which robotic writing utensils are used to enact all manner of phony legislation.

“I thought it was a joke at first, but the President did, in fact, authorize an autopen to sign the Patriot Act extension into law,” Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) said in a statement. “Consider the dangerous precedent this sets. Any number of circumstances could arise in the future where the public could question whether or not the president authorized the use of an autopen. For example, if the president is hospitalized and not fully alert, can a group of aggressive Cabinet members interpret a wink or a squeeze of the hand as approval of an autopen signing? I am very concerned about what this means for future presidential orders, whether they be signing bills into law, military orders, or executive orders.”

The administration of this web log recommends that readers click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this interesting posting in its entirety.

Representative Tom Graves is not the only one with concerns regarding this method of enacting legislation via “autopen” as those who subscribe to a so-called “formalist” or plain language interpretation of the United States Constitution (which this blogger has been known to agree with on certain issues) seem to have taken some offense to the notion of being able to sign legislation, especially legislation as important as the Patriot Act extension, into law through usage of an “autopen” especially in light of a plain language interpretation of the U.S. Constitution itself. To further elucidate this point it may be best to quote directly from a very astute comment on the CBSnews.com website attributed to Bojax39 on May 31, 2011:

Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel: “…we conclude that the President need not personally perform the physical act of affixing his signature to a bill he approves and decides to sign in order for the bill to become law. Rather, the President may sign a bill within the meaning of Article I, Section 7 by directing a subordinate to affix the President’s signature to such a bill, for example by autopen.”Article 1, Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution: “Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approves he shall sign it…” Now how the name of chicanery did the OLC “conclude” that? Just where does the Constitution say it’s okay for a machine to sign laws? What happens years from now when the government wants to prove to the people that it’s had the power to do some legal trickery for years? Drag out a former president’s autopen program to retroactively sign an empowering bit of “legislation”, wait for the ink to dry and tell us the law is really decades old?..

The administration of this blog again strongly recommends that readers click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this comment fully. That stated, one is always encouraged to take some opinions posted on the internet with a proverbial “grain of salt,” but under the circumstances the points raised in the citation above are valid.

Clearly, there is room for debate as to the legitimacy of “autopen” usage in the adoption of legislation. In fact, there could be an argument that failure to fully adhere to Article 1 Section 7 noted above creates an implication that the extension of the Patriot Act fails to conform to notions of due process of law under the American Constitution. How this issue will play out in the months and days ahead remains to be seen, but it seems likely that further discussion of “autopen” usage may arise in the future.

For related information please see: Legal.

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10th May 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the United States Navy, that indomitable symbol of America’s prowess on the high seas, has taken steps to begin solemnizing marital unions between those of the same gender. To quote directly from the Huffington Post:

WASHINGTON — Navy chaplains will be trained about their ability to perform same-sex civil marriage ceremonies under new guidance that would take effect if the Defense Department moves to recognize openly gay military service. Navy officials said Monday that they updated the training after questions came up about civil ceremonies for gay couples. Military training to apply the new law allowing gays to serve openly began earlier this year, and is expected to be complete by mid-summer.

For those who are unfamiliar with this topic it should be noted that the relatively recent repeal of the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has resulted in the need for measures to integrate members of the LGBT community into the American armed forces. One component of such an integration is that same sex couples be permitted to marry, especially in State jurisdictions which explicitly allow such unions. However, this issue is not exactly “cut and dried,” to quote further from the aforementioned article:

The Navy ceremonies would be allowed at military facilities such as chapel and catering centers, but only in states that already recognize same-sex unions. And, even if a marriage is performed, same-sex partners would not get any health, housing or other benefits that are provided to married couples involving a man and woman.

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click on the hyperlinks noted above to read this story in detail and learn more about these issues.

Clearly, there exists a States’ Rights component to the analysis of same sex marriage especially in light of the fact that 6 sovereign States and the District of Columbia have begun legalizing and solemnizing same sex marital unions within their respective jurisdictions. However, the final sentence of the above quotation should be concerning to same sex bi-national couples and the LGBT community as a whole. Although it is certainly positive that the American Navy is taking steps to begin solemnizing same sex unions while the overall legal stature of such unions is being determined, same sex couples are likely to continue to find themselves the victim of discrimination and double standards within the current American legal system.

Presently, there are cases in the judicial system which address these issues, but they have yet to take legal effect. Meanwhile, legislators such as Representative Jerrold Nadler have supported legislation such as the Respect for Marriage Act and the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) which would deal with the American government’s current discrimination against the LGBT community. Until such time as federal legislation is passed to repeal the provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA), or judicial action is taken to overturn this legislation, it would appear likely that same sex couples will continue to be the object of discrimination notwithstanding the fact that such discrimination (regardless of whether it is being carried out under the “color of law”) violates Americans’ natural rights pursuant to ancient notions such as Magna Carta and the specific provisions protecting free association within the language of the U.S. Constitution. Meanwhile, there is a strong argument that the federal government’s current failure to recognize same sex marriages solemnized and/or legalized within the jurisdiction of a sovereign American State violates the 10th Amendment of the Constitution since the provisions thereof reserve certain rights to the American States and People, respectively.  Licensure of marriage in an intrastate context has long been viewed by many Constitutional scholars as an exclusively State prerogative.

For related information please see: LGBT Immigration.

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