Categories: Featured News

It’s ALEC Not President Obama That is Trampling Constitutional Rights

When the Founding Fathers created the Constitution, besides setting a blueprint for how the young country would be governed, they devised the first ten amendments as protections for the people and aptly named them “the Bill of Rights,” and designated certain areas the government could not intrude on citizens in a free society. Shortly after Barack Obama began his first term in 2009, so-called patriots began decrying their loss of liberty because an African American sat in the Oval Office, and since then have kept up a steady cry that the President was “shredding the Constitution” and encroaching on their rights as freedom-loving patriotic Americans despite any evidence their constitutional rights were being trampled on. However, there is a group of Americans attempting to force, through legislation, a segment of the population to give up their constitutional rights and it is not President Obama, but Republicans and their legislative arm the corporate-controlled American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The founders sought to protect Americans from government agents indiscriminately targeting citizens and searching them, and wrote the Fourth Amendment that says; “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Besides legal protection, it guaranteed Americans could be secure in their private lives and that without good reason, no government or law enforcement agent could search for or seize private property based on appearance, gossip, or stereotype borne of financial standing, race, or associations. Prodded by ALEC, seven states enacted their model legislation allowing states to unreasonably search low-income, unemployed, and sick Americans’ bodies for no other reason than they were victims of  Republicans’ job-killing economic agenda.

After a federal appeals court struck down Florida’s unreasonable search provision demanding drug testing of welfare recipients, a Republican in the House, Stephen Fincher (R-TN) introduced a bill last Friday requiring any state wanting full funding for welfare assistance to force citizens to waive their Fourth Amendment rights and submit to drug testing. Fincher’s bill, the ALEC-named Welfare Integrity Act 2013, attempts to circumvent the Constitutional protection against unreasonable search by forcing states to provide a form that gives applicants a choice to either give up their Fourth Amendment rights and submit to drug testing, or give up their right to apply for programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Under Fincher’s bill, a state refusing to deny citizens their Constitutional rights is penalized by forfeiting 10% of their TANF funding for non-compliance of an unconstitutional law revoking citizens’ Fourth Amendment Rights, and requires states to pass their own unconstitutional law. Fincher argued that demanding citizens to give up their constitutional rights is not forced because applicants have the option to give up their right to apply for food assistance, but the appeals court said a forced waiver violates the doctrine of unconstitutional condition that “the government may not require a person to give up a constitutional right in exchange for a discretionary benefit conferred by the government.”

The appeals court recognized what any American watching Republicans denigrate the poor knows and rightly said that Florida “presented no evidence that simply because an applicant for TANF benefits is having financial problems, he is also drug-addicted or prone to fraudulent and neglectful behavior,” because there is none. The panel of judges also remarked that “there is nothing inherent to the condition of being impoverished that supports the conclusion that there is a “concrete dangerthat impoverished individuals are prone to drug use,” except for Republicans’ wont to demean poor people who are suffering Republicans refusal to create jobs or raise the minimum wage.

In 2012 at ALEC’s urging, Congress gave states the right to require drug testing to receive their unemployment benefits, and in Texas, Rick Perry took it a step farther pushing a law requiring unemployment beneficiaries, people applying for food stamps, and welfare applicants to be drug tested because they are suffering Republicans’ economic agenda. ALEC’s legislation is gaining traction in other Republican-controlled states, and it is noteworthy that Republicans are not requiring unconstitutional drug tests for beneficiaries of other government programs and subsidies such as state legislators, governors, oil company executives, corporate CEO’s, or members of Congress. Despite no empirical data that the unemployed, disabled, or working-poor are guilty of illegal drug use, Republicans are singling out the poorest Americans for scrutiny. It is typically Republican and Draconian to single out the poor, unemployed, and disabled for unconstitutional intrusions into their persons, but simply outrageous that ALEC and Republicans are also creating the economic conditions that force Americans to require assistance to begin with.

There appears to be no end of Republican attacks on Americans, especially those barely surviving in a brutal economy created by GOP intransigence to create jobs or help the people prosper. Indeed, their persistent assault on jobs through perpetual spending cuts plays a major role in why so many working Americans need assistance to begin with, but to demand American citizens give up their constitutional rights belies their alleged allegiance to the Constitution they are shredding because a legion of corporate heads deemed it necessary to single out the poorest Americans for unreasonable treatment, but based on their four-year war on Americans, nothing should shock and awe the people; not even Republicans trampling on Americans Constitutional rights.



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