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Donald Trump gained political infamy first for perpetuating the birther conspiracy -- based on a constitutional technicality -- and later for making racist comments about Mexican immigrants. McWhirter argues that constitutional literalists should be the first to recognize immigrant's rights. REUTERS/Jim Young

In her book “¡Adios America!: The Left’s Plan To Turn Our Country Into A Third World Hellhole,” author Ann Coulter makes the case that that the 14th amendment doesn’t or at least shouldn’t give rights to immigrants because it was passed in the cntext of black slavery. Constitutional scholar and author Robert J. McWhirter disagrees and criticizes conservatives who advocate interpretations of the Constitution as "originally intened." He takes on Republican presidential candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz for hopping on the tough-on-immigrants bandwagon. In this op-ed (we’re not endorsing the content), McWhirter argues that immigrants’ rights are enshrined not only in the nation's core laws but in the original visions of America’s founding fathers.

We the People … ,” are the first words of our Constitution, not “We the citizens.” “ We the People … ” means everyone has rights – that is the big idea of a big place called America. The Declaration of Independence, the first definition of America, started the idea that, all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. . .

Again, it’s not “all citizens are created equal.” Rights are as inalienable to aliens as anyone else.

This did not stop Donald Trump from insulting Mexico, Mexicans, and immigrants. Ted Cruz, angling for a political bromance with the suddenly popular Donald, jumped in with “me too!” Ann Coulter, the never to be outdone queen of anecdotal evidence and dubious syntax, has been cutting through great swaths of truth to assert American is besieged—Immigration is a liberal democratic plot to destroy America (her words, not mine).

The Declaration of Independence also indicted King George III for “ repeated injuries and usurpations ” including,

“He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither…”

The original intent of America’s Framers was open immigration. Both Cruz and Coulter are professed disciples of “original intent,” that we must read and apply the Constitution as the Framers intended.

Obviously on this point they are intentionally selective. Regarding immigration, Trump, Cruz, and Coulter should celebrate what they have in common with King George III, our first tyrant.

The Trump, Cruz, and Coulters want to tap a deep well of prejudice with arguments both perennial and unoriginal. Some Americans have always found immigrants alarming, especially during economic challenge. Nearly any line from Coulter finds its parallel in the past in condemnations of Irish, Poles, Chinese, or Italians—in other words, most of our ancestors.

But our forefathers disproved the arguments about immigrants and crime just as the facts do today. Estimates of the number of undocumented people range between 11.5 and 12 million, which is about doubled since 1994. Yet as this number has increased, America’s violent crime rate has dropped by 34.2% and property crime by 26.4%. Among 18-39 year old men, immigrants have an incarceration rate of only 0.7 % versus 3.5 % for citizens. Young citizen men go to jail five times more than young immigrant men. These statistics would be even more striking if we used Coulter’s made up number of 30 million undocumented people.

As America’s prosperity shows, our forefathers also belied the myth that immigrants are lazy. Our economy is richer from the contribution of immigrants. Both documented and undocumented immigrants pay more in than they take out.

Look at Social Security. After paying about $150 for a fake Green Card and Social Security Card, an undocumented worker will pay about $2000 a year in Social Security Tax. For this he gets nothing. The estimated seven million illegal immigrant workers generate about $6 to $7 billion in Social Security revenue a year. The Social Security trust fund is $120 – $240 billion the richer. Medicare and unemployment taxes have similar numbers. Undocumented workers help make the whole system solvent.

Trump can hold forth that “Mexico is not sending us their best” by ignoring that undocumented people do jobs for which most citizens lack the constitution. Anyone with a work ethic should value those who pick our food, wash our restaurant dishes, and landscape our lawns. Maybe if Donald put a hot day’s work in a lettuce field, or, better yet, worked a day as undocumented maid in one of his hotels, he would know Mexico sent us their best.

And what about the dream kid whose parents brought him here who wants to go to school or serve in the military protecting the idea of America. The Trump, Cruz, and Coulters would deny him or her not just the chance to go to college or a driver’s license, but the American dream. Mexico and a lot of other countries sent their best, just as did the countries of our forefathers.

But for the Trump, Cruz, and Coulters this is the season of “playing to the base”—the baseness of ugly populism. They play to a fear of scarcity; “illegals” are somehow taking away from “Americans.” This avoids looking at this country’s income gap between rich and poor or wage disparity between workers and executives. Under this fear, no amount of empirical data will change the prejudice. Embracing this ugly populism allows Ted to cruise and Donald to trumpet.

But this country remains a big place with a big economy. We are, as we always have been, more than big enough to accept the enrichment immigrants bring. The founders of our country bequeathed the big idea that is “America.”

The question is not whether America is big enough for more immigrants, but whether America is great enough.

About the author: Robert J. McWhirter is a criminal defense and constitutional lawyer in Phoenix, Arizona, and author of The Criminal Lawyer’s Guide to Immigration Law. His latest book is Bills, Quills, and Stills: An Annotated, Illustrated, and Illuminated History of the Bill of Rights (ABA Press 2015).

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