Despite bluster from top Republicans, it’s worth noting that a slew of white domestic terrorists who killed Americans still got their due process rights.
Prior to killing 8 people in Lower Manhattan with a rented truck, 29-year-old Saifullo Saipov — a green card holder — emigrated from Uzbekistan on the diversity visa program. As the Washington Post explains, the diversity visa program grants 50,000 green cards each year (out of roughly 1,000,000 green cards issued annually) to immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration as a means of diversifying the American melting pot.
Now, top Republican leaders like Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and John McCain (R-Arizona) claim Saipov should be treated as an enemy combatant despite being a legal permanent resident of the US. President Trump added that the recent terror attack in New York should be grounds for ending the diversity visa program to prevent terrorists from entering the country, and that Saipov should be sent to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
It’s important to note these positions go against legal precedent established 64 years ago in the Shaughnessy v. Mezei case, in that all persons within the United States have due process rights. The 2001 Zadvydas v. Davis case cited the Shaughnessy decision, adding that “the Due Process Clause applies to all persons within the United States, including aliens, whether their presence is lawful, unlawful, temporary, or permanent.”
Saipov was ultimately charged as a legal permanent resident and not as an enemy combatant, but his nation of origin appeared to be the key motivator behind the arguments to label him otherwise. No Republican leaders ever called for the suspension of due process rights for various white domestic terrorists who killed scores of Americans in recent history.
Here are a few examples:
1. Timothy McVeigh (1995)
Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh is the perpetrator of the deadliest domestic terror attack in American history (second deadliest, if you count the recent Las Vegas massacre as a domestic terror attack). In 1995, McVeigh parked a truck armed with homemade explosives adjacent to the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168 and injuring nearly 700 others. 19 children in the building’s daycare center were among those killed.
Despite the carnage McVeigh wreaked, no congressional leaders called for his rights to be suspended.
2. James Holmes (2012)
The mass shooting at a Cinemark movie theater in Aurora, Colorado was the deadliest mass shooting in the state since the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, with perpetrator James Holmes killing 12 people and injuring 70 others. Despite claims by his attorneys that he was suffering from severe mental illness when carrying out the attack, Holmes was calculated in planning for the shooting, legally purchasing various firearms, body armor, and 6,000 rounds of ammo well ahead of time and purchasing his ticket for the movie nearly two weeks in advance.
No members of Congress called for Holmes to be treated as an enemy combatant.
3. Dylann Roof (2015)
White supremacist Dylann Roof murdered 9 churchgoers in cold blood at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina after sitting through an entire Bible study meeting with his victims. Roof specifically targeted the church as it was a well-known landmark for its abolitionist and civil rights history. Roof espoused hatred for African Americans in a racist manifesto and journal from jail.
Even though Roof’s slaughtering of the churchgoers was the textbook definition of terrorism, he still maintained his due process rights.
4. Jared Loughner (2011)
Jared Lee Loughner went on a shooting rampage in Pima County, Arizona six years ago, killing six people and injuring 13 others, including former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona). Friends of Loughner described him as “anti-government,” with his behavior growing noticeably darker leading up to the shooting in January of 2011. A safe in Loughner’s home hinted that he organized the attack in advance, with an envelope reading “I planned ahead” and “My assassination,” along with another mention of Rep. Giffords.
Loughner maintained his due process rights despite killing a federal judge and seriously wounding a member of Congress.
5. James Fields (2017)
20-year-old James Alex Fields was the driver who ran over counter-protester Heather Heyer during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August. In addition to Heyer, 19 other counter-protesters were injured in the attack. Fields espoused white supremacist views, and one former teacher told CNN that Fields had a fondness for Adolf Hitler and was “very big into Nazism.” Most notably, Fields’ tactic of driving a vehicle into a crowd of people was the same tactic used by Saipov in his attack in Lower Manhattan.
Fields is awaiting trial on multiple felony counts, and was not labeled as an enemy combatant.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.