The Government Gives, Thus, The Government Can Take

This bothers me:

Members of a House committee Wednesday appeared to be leaning toward passage of a bill that would allow law enforcement officials in Alabama to seize the property of illegal aliens. . . .

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, is modeled on laws allowing police to seize the property of drug dealers. The legislation allows law enforcement to seize from illegal immigrants any property not needed for “basic living necessities,” but gives law enforcement agencies broad scope in determining what is and isn’t necessary.

The bill is HB290:

Property of a person present in this state who is in violation of the immigration laws of the United States, except property needed for the basic living necessities of the person as determined by the local law enforcement agency, acquired by the person directly or indirectly while in violation of the immigration laws of the United States shall be subject to forfeiture . . . .

I hate forfeiture laws. They give the state the power to summarily seize your property without having to so much as get a warrant prior to the seizure. And then when the judicial proceedings do occur, they’re governed by the rules of civil procedure. That means: 1) the state gets to take your property if it can prove that it’s more likely than not that it is subject to forfeiture; forget about beyond a reasonable doubt; 2) you have no right to an attorney; 3) you have no right to confront the witnesses against you. Oh, and then the agency that took the property gets to keep it and do with it whatever it wants. The whole process is a huge incentive for abuses. So I am never going to be in favor of expanding them.

This particular one is extrordinarily bad. It gives the state unbridled discretion to take any kind of property. Yeah, it throws in language about basic living necessities, but the cops get to make that decision. This is asking for abuse.

But more than the potential for abuse and the inherent unfairness of forfeiture laws, something else bothers me about this bill.  

I really don’t care about illegal immigration. It does not bother me one bit if someone wants to enter this country without first stopping fill out the proper paperwork. It does not bother me one bit if that same person refuses to ever learn English, enjoy apple pie, or watch Nascar. Still, I understand the arguments that illegals ought not receive Government services. If they don’t pay the bureaucratic costs – becoming citizens, paying all the same taxes I do, etc – than I can understand denying them the bureaucratic benefits.

Forfeiture of property, though, is different. In contrast to welfare payments, property ownership is supposed to be a natural right. That is, something that a person can do simply because they are a person. Property ownership is not something the government gives us. It is an inherent right no different than the right to free peach or the right to freedom of religion. Hence, it exists whether or not the person is a citizen of whatever country he happens to find himself in.

This bill, though, treats property rights like welfare privileges. That is, it treats property “rights” as something the government provides and the government can take away. That scares me. The results of this type of thinking are ugly.

So even if illegal immigrants are a real problem, letting the government assert this kind of power is a cure worse than the disease.

Explore posts in the same categories: Alabama Legislature, Immigration

8 Comments on “The Government Gives, Thus, The Government Can Take”

  1. Joe Says:

    It seems they need to just quit proposing any legislation at all. When is this session over, so we can rest without worring about what wacky legislation will be introduced, and which important bills will be ignored?

  2. Old Prosecutor Says:

    I am not particularly in favor of this bill but to play the Devil’s Advocate – the right to own property. The “right to free peach’ (hey I like that one) and the right to religious freedoms are rights afforded United States citizens under the constitution. Should non citizens and particularly someone here illegally be afforded the same rights

  3. wheeler Says:

    “are rights afforded United States citizens under the constitution.”

    that is exactly what i’m complaining about.

    the constitution does not give you, me, or anyone else any rights. the constitution simply recognizes rights that we already possess by virtue of being human. hence, people have those rights regardless of whether or not they are citizens of this or any state.

  4. Old Prosecutor Says:

    I disagree. “moral” rights become legal rights only when a society choses to recognize them as such. In addition what are and are not “moral rights” differ from society to society. For example Mormoms believed in polygamy but American Society has not recognized that right. You may claim a moral or human right to free speech but exercise that in Iran and you will end up very dead.

    My point is that if you chose to become a United States citizen you gain protection for the rights recogized by the Constitution. If you chose to enter illegally and not be a citizen then you lose the protection.

  5. Dystopos Says:

    By unanimous declaration the United States of America recognizes life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as unalienable Rights.

  6. Old Prosecutor Says:

    Interesting, many of those declarers were slave holders so obviously “all men” and “liberty” must have had different meanings for them. Not to mention that the same framers routinely used the death penalty (as we do today) so I wonder what “life” meant to them.

    In any event the rest of that sentence says ” That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men” The document establishing that government begins “we the people of the United States”

    The fact is we have long held that non citizens are not entitled to all the rights set forth in the Constitution and/or the Declaration. For example non citizens can not vote or hold certain officers,

    Further if a citizen’s property can be taken for violation of the law (see RICO and drug cases) why can’t a non-citizens

  7. Kathy Says:

    Re: the payment of taxes, illegal immigrants pay taxes every time they buy any of that property that might be forfeited. They pay property taxes every time they pay rent. They pay sales taxes every time they buy groceries or clothing. I’d venture to guess that in most cases they would not be liable for federal income tax because their incomes are too low. Okay, I guess they probably get a break on Alabama’s income tax, given that it still kicks in for a family of four making $12,500.

    Anyway, I’m with you all the way on the forfeiture laws. Far too much potential for abuse.

  8. Dystopos Says:

    I believe that the “declarers” recognized that the institutions of their time were inconsistent with their ideals. Fortunately they built the foundation on very strong ideals so that the overall construction would be able to bridge poorly-constituted subsoils.

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