Holly Richardson: How can God-given rights only apply to Americans?

Visitors view the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives the nation's 200th birthday in Washington Sunday, July 4, 1976. The Declaration, on which the nation was founded, was placed on view for 96 straight hours during the Bicentennial celebration. (AP Photo)

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among those are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Those words from the Declaration of Independence ring down through the ages. I have heard dozens — hundreds, maybe, of speeches that point to this fundamental belief that lies at the bedrock of our nation’s founding — that everyone — EVERYONE - has rights that come to them by God and that those rights cannot be granted by any government.

In fact, the Declaration of Independence goes on to say further that whenever those rights have been so trampled on and usurped, it is the right of the people to create a government that will protect those rights for all.

Oddly missing from this Declaration is the caveat “unless you were born in another country” or “unless you seeking refuge from abuse and terror.” So why are there so many in this nation willing to look down from their lofty towers and proclaim that unalienable rights from God come only to those born in the United States of America? How arrogant.

On our southern border, asylum seekers are turned away without an opportunity to petition the courts for safety. Eyewitnesses and advocates visiting the Brownsville-Matamoros International Bridge between Mexico and the U.S. in June met Laura and her 6-year-old son Nicolas. She was fleeing a violent police officer husband whose colleagues turned the other way when she sought help. She came to follow the legal process the United States outlined — enter the country and request asylum.

However, the officers on the bridge were not allowing anyone to complete the first step — enter the U.S. “They keep telling me to go come back later, that there is no room for people like me (asylum seekers), and that I should try again in five or six hours,” Laura explained. “But I have been here for three days, along with these other people waiting here, and no one gets in.”

According to those same eyewitnesses, the supervisor was confronted about a mother and child who had been sitting on the bridge for days and his response was a chilling, “I don’t really care.”

Where are the unalienable rights for Laura and Nicolas?

As I’ve written before, the worldwide refugee crisis is expanding. On average, someone is driven from their home every two seconds.

The Trump administration is now considering cutting the number of refugees admitted to the United States by 40 percent, down to just 25,000 per year. For some context, Bangladesh has a million or more refugees, Germany has almost a million and Turkey has 3.5 million refugees. But the U.S. can only “handle” 25,000?

Where are the refugees' unalienable rights? Should they not be able to seek refuge in a place where they can at least hope for a measure of peace?

For those who say that rights only extend to those who are citizens of the United States: You are wrong. The Founding Fathers declared their natural rights came from God long before they had a United States to belong to. More recently, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Zadvydas v. Davis (2001) that “due process” of the 14th Amendment applies to all aliens in the United States whose presence may be or is "unlawful, involuntary or transit.”

The court also ruled in Almeida-Sanchez v. United States (1973) that all criminal charge-related elements of the Constitution’s amendments (the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and the 14th) including search and seizure, self-incrimination, trial by jury and due process, protect non-citizens, legally or illegally present. Saying that unalienable rights depend on where you were born and that they stop at the border — which something created by governments and not by God — is segregation. It’s the new way of claiming to be “Separate but equal.”

If you believe that God has granted you rights that cannot be granted by government, but you also believe that those rights only extend to the border, I would suggest that you do not in fact, believe in the Constitution, unalienable rights or the Founding Fathers vision for this country. You cannot have it both ways.

Holly Richardson | The Salt Lake Tribune

Holly Richardson, a Salt Lake Tribune columnist, believes that all humans come endowed with rights from God, no matter where they are born or where they now live.