CNN's Piers Morgan, a British citizen, has become the latest target of the gun lobby for his outspoken stance in favor of gun control in the wake of the shootings at Newtown, CT. Gun owners have circulated a petition on a White House website asking that he be deported to the UK for attacking the Constitutional right of Americans to own guns. The petition, as of Tuesday, December 25, had already received more than 60,000 signatures.
The following is the text of the petition, according to the Huffington Post.
"British Citizen and CNN television host Piers Morgan is engaged in a hostile attack against the US Constitution by targeting the Second Amendment. We demand that Mr. Morgan be deported immediately for his effort to undermine the Bill of Rights and for exploiting his postition as a national network television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens."
Mr. Morgan lost no time in pointing out the irony of the petition's asking for someone to be deported for allegedly opposing one provision of the Bill of Rights, while ignoring that same person's rights under another key provision of the Bill of Rights, namely, the First Amendment's protection of freedom of speech.
In response, some gun supporters have argued that the Bill of Rights only protects US citizens, an absurd position in the light of numerous Supreme Court decisions holding that the Bill of Rights protects everyone, including non-US citizens. See Padilla v. Kentucky 130 S. Ct. 1473 (2010).
Does this also mean that non-US citizens do not have a Second Amendment right to own guns? No one would expect such an argument to come from the NRA. It is true that the Supreme Court has held that no one who is not a US citizen has a First Amendment right to a visa to enter the United States. Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753 (1972).
Nor is Mr. Morgan accused of having broken any law which might limit freedom of speech and thus infringe on his First Amendment rights, as was the case with some of the Smith Act defendants in the anti-Communist witch hunting days back in the 1950's. Therefore, the First Amendment is not really the issue.
The main problem with the petition against Piers Morgan is that it violates his Fifth Amendment right to due process of law. Mr. Morgan is, obviously, in this country with a legal visa, such as O-1, H-1B or possibly even a green card. I have no idea which. But since he is here legally, he cannot be deported unless he has broken some law or committed a deportable offence.
Obviously, it is it not against any law to speak out against the gun lobby, because otherwise, many of our leading politicians, including, in the wake of Newtown, some Republicans, would now be facing prosecution. Nor is it a deportable offence to speak out on a political issue. It is true that if CNN were to fire Mr. Morgan, he might lose his visa and then become deportable. But this petition is not addressed to CNN. It is addressed to the White House, which has no power to deport Mr. Morgan, even in the highly unlikely event that it wished to support the gun lobby by doing so.
The PATRIOT Act makes someone who engages in activities which could endanger the safety, welfare or security of the US inadmissible, INA Section 212(a)(3)(F). But if we have learned anything at all from Newtown, it is that NRA supporters should have a bigger problem under this section than gun control advocates such as Piers Morgan.
The real problem with the gun lobby's White House petition is that, while ostensibly claiming to uphold the US Constitution, it is trashing the Constitution by demanding the deportation of someone who has committed no deportable offense and broken no law, but has merely spoken out, as allowed by the same Bill of Rights that the gun lobby is claiming to uphold. By asking for Piers Morgan to be deported for speaking out on a political (and moral) issue, the gun lobby is upholding, not the rule of law, but the rule of guns.
If the extremists in the Republican party are willing to support a petition of this kind, which tests the bounds of sanity to put it mildly, how much will they really be willing to compromise on immigration reform if and when this issue ever comes up in the new Congress?
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.