Trump’s already failed presidency has been built on scapegoating undocumented immigrants, while insisting that he fully supports legal immigration. A case currently put before the Supreme Court has just exposed his lie.
With the case, Maslenjak v. United States, the Supreme Court is weighing whether a naturalized citizen, that is to say a fully fledged American citizen, a person just as legally American as someone born here, can be stripped of citizenship if it’s discovered they made a false statement on their initial immigration form.
The forms asks the ridiculous question of whether or not the applicant has ever committed a crime of any sort, minor or major, even if no one was around to see it, and no arrest took place.
Chief Justice John Roberts, disturbed by the idea of granting such power to Trump’s anti-immigrant government, proposed a hypothetical situation to tear into the preposterous case:
“Some time ago, outside the statute of limitations, I drove 60 miles an hour in a 55 miles an hour zone. I was not arrested,” Roberts said. “Now you say that if I answered that question [on the form] ‘no’, 20 years after I was naturalized as a citizen you can knock on my door and say: ‘Guess what, you’re not an American citizen after all.'”
The government’s lawyer arguing the case replied that in such a scenario, Roberts would be obligated to disclose the speeding violation and failing to do so would be cause to remove his citizenship.
Several of the other Justices joined in to point out the absurdity of the case. Justice Elena Kagan mused that the case implies she could be stripped of her rights as an American if she so much as lied a little about her weight on the form.
Justice Anthony Kennedy had little patience for the government’s case:
“Your argument is demeaning the priceless value of citizenship. You’re arguing for the government of the United States, talking about what citizenship is and ought to mean.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked whether omitting childhood nicknames, despite the form asking the applicant to list them, could also lead to a stripping away of legal citizenship.
The government’s lawyer refused to back down throughout, firmly insisting on the ludicrous central idea. The Supreme Court saw right through his argument.
Under Trump, the separation of powers has become more important than ever. Thankfully, there is still some sanity left in the American system.y
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Robert Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.