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Why is due process important?

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Why is due process important? After all, It is so frustrating to slow down the execution of the law.


Let us suppose an American lawful resident who lives near the southern border and speaks little English, has a beautiful wife whom his neighbor covets. Let us suppose his neighbor calls Homeland Security and claims the man next door is illegal. Of course, a good Border Patrol agent would check a database and ask the man in Spanish for identification. But what if the officer is close friends with the neighbor? Or what if he is the neighbor himself? Maybe just this once, he breaks the rule and acts like King David who sent Bathsheba's husband off to war.


People act like people. Human nature and the experience of life tells us that people make false accusations and use their power to satisfy their personal desires. Most of the time, most police officers try to get it right, and mostly they act professionally. But not always. You want the right to a trial for yourself. Why not give it to your neighbor? How do you know the person is truly an illegal?


The difference between a country of laws and a police state is just this. It is the imposition of an independent person, a judge, to decide if the police officer got it right.


And precisely because the judge exists, the police officer is more likely to try harder to get it right. That is why we have students turn in homework to a teacher, and the IRS conduct audits. It is not because we think most students don't want to learn, or that most Americans are dishonest. But when tempted to cheat, people are afraid of getting caught.


If the policeman becomes the judge, his power increases enormously. It makes bribery simpler, too, for the illegal alien who wants to stay. That creates great temptations for the officers and undermines the culture of the Border Patrol. None of that would help border security.


If you want to expel many unlawful aliens quickly, then do it legally and properly. The only thing that makes their being here "unlawful" is that we are a nation of laws. As a lawyer, I know that laws only have meaning when they are enforced fairly. And we have learned from Ancient Israel and Ancient Rome to a thousand years of English history, and a few hundred years of our own, that mobs and sheriffs sometimes get it wrong, and we need judges and trials to ensure justice.


The President speaks for many citizens with his frustration about the slow pace of expelling illegal aliens. I respect that sentiment, even if I don't share it, and elections have consequences. Many people expect this President to deliver on his promise to expel illegal aliens quickly. But the solution is a lawful process and investing the resources to do the job right. The alternative, as we have seen, is that we quickly become a country that orders its police to separate babies from mothers.


Patience with due process protects all of us.

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