No Right to Personal Property

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

Americans take for granted that no private or government agency can confiscate private or personal property unless so designated by a court order. And even then, an individual who loses their worldly possessions can and should challenge any local, state or federal government decision to confiscate what was theirs. This is one of the fundamentals of the U.S. Constitution. But what if you are not a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident? In a damning report by the Tucson-based organization No More Deaths, evidence has been uncovered about U.S. Border Patrol personnel confiscating personal property of migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Regardless of the status of those detained, it is anathema for anyone in the U.S. government to be able to take away the personal property of foreign nationals.

Yet the report provides consistent details of migrants (mostly from Mexico but also from other countries) having their money, cell phones, wallets, purses, and I.D. cards confiscated by U.S. Border Patrol personnel without any legal recourse. Worse, these migrants were then dumped in the middle of somewhere in Mexico without any money, cell phones, or even documentation to prove who they are. This is inhumane to put it mildly, and this makes these migrants vulnerable to criminals and drug cartel members. The U.S. Border Patrol usually dumps these people hundreds, even thousands of miles from their home towns or even countries of origin. The organization No More Deaths tries to provide aid and safety for those migrants trapped in the remote deserts of the U.S. southwest and to those migrants thrown into Mexico. However, when robbed of their personal possessions, there is little that No More Deaths can do when these migrants were robbed by the U.S. Border Patrol. If anything, being robbed of their personal property only increases the chances that many of these migrants might be harmed or even killed.

And as the old saying goes, “what goes around comes around.” American nationals in the countries where these migrants may come from may be seen as fair game for being robbed and even killed because of the treatment the U.S. Border Patrol has meted out against these migrants. So there is that aspect of how Americans could be put at risk for what the U.S. Border Patrol does to migrants. This behavior of being able to take the personal property of migrants has got to be stopped, and the protection of migrants’ personal property under law be duly enforced. If a migrant’s money, cell phone, I.D. cards, and even food are taken away, these poor people might indeed be condemned to death.

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