Fact Checking Tim Kaine: There is No Constitutional Right for Any Foreign National to Enter the U.S.

In Tuesday’s vice presidential debate the issue of resettling Syrian refugees was discussed by the two leading candidates, Democratic nominee Sen. Tim Kaine and Republican nominee Gov. Mike Pence.

Last month, President Obama announced a 30 percent increase in refugee resettlement in FY 2017 (which began Oct. 1), a position that is supported by the Democratic ticket. In criticizing Pence’s call for “suspending the Syrian refugee program and programs and immigration from areas of the world that have been compromised by terrorism,” Kaine asserted that such a policy would violate the U.S. Constitution. According to Kaine, taking such action would be “violating the Constitution by blocking people based on their national origin rather than whether they’re dangerous.”

Sen. Kaine’s assertion is factually inaccurate. There is no affirmative right for any foreign national to enter the United States. Under federal statute, the president has the authority, by proclamation, to suspend the entry of “any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States [who]would be detrimental to the interests of the United States,” for however long he deems necessary.

The authority of the president to determine the circumstances under which foreign nationals may enter the United States has been repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court. In an 1892 case, Ekiu v. United States, the Court held that, “It is an accepted maxim of international law that every sovereign nation has the power, as inherent in sovereignty, and essential to self-preservation, to forbid the entrance of foreigners within its dominions, or to admit them only in such cases and upon such conditions as it may see fit to prescribe.” Subsequent Supreme Court decisions have reaffirmed this accepted maxim.

Thus, the president has the authority to bar the entry of foreign nationals for whatever reason he or she might deem appropriate. While the president has the authority to block the entry of people based on national origin, that is not even what is being discussed in this case. Almost nobody is suggesting that we prohibit the entry of Syrian nationals because they are Syrians. Rather, the argument against settling them in the United States is rooted in the rational fact that it is virtually impossible to adequately vet people from Syria to determine, as Sen. Kaine argues, “whether they’re dangerous.” There is broad consensus among top national security experts that we cannot make such determinations with any degree of certainty. And, if we cannot determine who poses a threat, suspending resettlement seems like a far more reasonable option than increasing resettlement.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.


  1. avatar

    “Ignorant voters are our best key to win.”–Hillary Clinton campaign to the DNC as revealed by Wikileaks on July 23, 2016. Let that sink in…. “Look, the average Democrat voter is just plain stupid. They’re easy to manipulate. That’s the easy part.” — Hillary Clinton, as told to Dick Morris in “Rewriting History”, 2005 Yet, some believe it’s just a coincidence no one is quoting our immigration laws.

  2. avatar
    Louis Grue Jr. on

    It is impossible for Muslims to assimilate with the citizens of any other country except the middle east. The Qur’an dictates that there shall be no other religion but Islam. TRANLATION : Islam must take over any community, territory , or nation and convert them to Islam or behead them ! It’s called A CALIPHATE !

  3. avatar

    Stop the Syrian refugees now.! We don’t need or want muslim extremists or overpopulation from the Middle East.

  4. avatar

    Obozo and Crooked Hillary seem OK with putting our lives on the line. The Syrian refugees should be stopped NOW. Trump 2016

  5. avatar

    The liberal demorats think that just because we let lots of immigrations 200 yrs ago that we should still do that..times change but those idiots dont care..its all about the party and how many votes their worth..most of them live in gated communities with armed guards and can afford expensive alarms..to hell with the rest of us deplorables..for me its all about safety and not just votes..

    • avatar

      I agree 100% HDMania. We must first secure our borders and send all illegal immigrants with a criminal background back to where they came from! Disband sanctuary cities, and for illegal immigrants already living here, have a path to citizenship for them if they pass background, vetting checks and are tax paying, law-abiding citizens who SUPPORT OUR CONSTITUTION! No freebies anymore! This will take some time and any additional immigrants requests must wait until the above are accomplished and we have a safe vetting system that puts American citizens first and our economy can handle influx of additional people. Also, ALL PEOPLE ENTERING THE US MUST BE VACCINATED!

      • avatar

        I’m afraid I have to disagree with you about giving illegal immigrants here a path to citizenship. I don’t care how many background checks they pass, or what fines they pay, that’s amnesty, and that’s what got us into this mess in the first place. There’s a fundamental misconception that we have to “do something” with illegal aliens. All we have to do is enforce existing work permit laws and prevent illegal aliens from working. If they can’t work they’ll have to go home. They broke our laws willingly; we owe them nothing. I would also add that I advocate a guest worker program that would allow foreign workers to come to work legally in this country for a few months at a time without immigrating. We could also allow certain formerly illegal aliens who have returned home to immigrate legally but we cannot just let them stay. We cannot continue to reward illegal behavior. No more amnesty!

        • avatar

          also, the children of guest workers cannot and should not get birthright citizenship if born here

  6. avatar

    Typical lefty Kaine – the way they problem-solve is to throw an idea (Or money) against the wall and see if it sticks. Totally and vote- getting. No effort to look at reality or see cause-and-effect, Analyze, or problem– solve. Sad thing is, the people no longer know how to think thanks to the national education Association in the public schools. Get your kid out of there or we will have no future as Americans anymore! in many ways we will be worse off than Europe because at least they have some long-standing Western culture fall back on. We have rap music, violence, threats, division, etc.

  7. avatar

    Typical lefty Kaine and – the way they problem-solve is to throw an idea (Or money) against the wall and see if it sticks. No effort to look at reality or see cause-and-effect, Analyze, and problem – solve. Yes, it is a religion of sorts.

  8. avatar

    I live near the southern Texas/Mexico border. It scares the he– out of me that this border is so open and unguarded since the obama Administration moved into the White-house! My husband was in the U.S. Border Patrol back in 1955 through 1960 (at which time he transferred to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, now known as ICE.) Back then they picked up illegals and DEPORTED them! Now they just turn their eyes away and let them in, courtesy of barack insane obama! I am so fed up with that jerk in our White-house and believe me it will be no better if Hitler-y gets the presidency! God, please help us, we need You so much in our lives, I pray for our safety daily. Thank you all for letting me express my fears and distrust in this administration1

  9. avatar

    Kaine is a filthy subversive that hates Americans. [edited for content – please check our commenting guidelines].

    • avatar

      He reminds me of Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining. Not the good sane one at the beginning. The “Here’s Johnny!” one busting thru the door with an axe.

    • avatar

      First of all, I don’t think that kind of language about a Vice Presidential candidate helps the cause of increasing border security or is very admirable. Second, use that kind of language about a Vice Presidential candidate and there is a good possibility the Secret Service will show up at your front door. Not smart on your part.

  10. avatar
    Sharon Barnes on

    And this idiot thinks he should be a heartbeat away from the Presidency. Given Hillary’s health problem, that is even more frightening than she is.

  11. avatar

    We have a media that does the old Soviet Union Pravda proud. When that guy held up a copy of the Constitution at the Dem. convention and asked Trump if he had read it, all the media did for two solid days was swoon over how he had set Trump straight. No one pointed out that it was Trump who was 100% correct when he said the president makes the decision on who can enter.

    A recent report by the Public Interest Legal Foundation of 8 of 132 Localities in Virginia found many hundreds of non citizens illegal registered, and “when the voting history of this small sample of alien registrants is examined, nearly 200 verified ballots were cast before they were removed from the rolls.” They pointed out the GOP candidate for attorney general lost by 1000 votes in 2013. And it’s been verified in other states.

    It’s not rare and the media is ignoring it. We talk about our vaunted “free press” but not only do they not inform, they actively misinform. Case in point, the claim this president deported more illegals than any other, when the fact is they did it by counting removals at the border, not from the interior, which was the previous standard. Deportations are down not up but if you talk to the average person they think he has deported more. The reason is media propaganda.

    20 years ago Pat Buchanan was slammed for a book called The Death of The West in which he said political correctness demanded that we treat every culture equally in regards to immigrants, never mind that many immigrants are the polar opposite in beliefs from the secular Western countries. Now we have London’s Muslim mayor saying that the city should be able to have it’s own immigration policy, in spite of no legal basis for that. Any bets on what countries most of them would come from?

    Liberalism used to be a political philosophy. Now, in it’s schizophrenic embrace of the most fundamentalist and repressive religion ever invented, it’s more of a mental disorder.

    • avatar

      There is no such thing as “a media”; the work “media” is the plural of the work “medium”. Fortunately the liberals don’t control all media. The have television and most newspapers but not talk radio.

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        But the only people who listen to talk radio are the people who already agree, so it does make a big difference whether liberals have television or newspapers because that is where the majority of people get their “news”. As for the definition of “media” that’s splitting hairs.