Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Does President Trump Have the Power to Issue a Quarantine Order?

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Yes, he can restrict travel — between states, not within states — of people reasonably expected to have COVID-19.
On Saturday, President Trump announced via Twitter that he may decide to order a quarantine. As he put it: “I am giving consideration to a QUARANTINE of developing ‘hot spots’, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. A decision will be made, one way or another, shortly.”
The powers of the federal government in general, and of the president in particular, to quarantine American citizens are not cut-and-dried.
The Supreme Court has long recognized that citizens of the United States have a constitutional right to travel from state to state. In its 1998 decision in Saenz v. Roe (quoting from a concurring opinion by Justice Potter Stewart in Shapiro v. Thompson (1969)), the Court opined that this “right is so important that it is ‘assertable against private interference as well as governmental action . . . a virtually unconditional personal right, guaranteed by the Constitution to us all.’”
This is rather a grandiose pronouncement given that there is no explicit right to travel in the Constitution. Indeed, the word travel does not appear in the document at all. Nonetheless, it was explicitly spelled out in the Articles of Confederation (Article IV states, in pertinent part, “the people of each state shall have free ingress and regress to and from any other state”). The Court has presumed (as the justices reaffirmed in Saenz) that
the nature of our Federal Union and our constitutional concepts of personal liberty unite to require that all citizens be free to travel throughout the length and breadth of our land uninhibited by statutes, rules, or regulations which unreasonably burden or restrict this movement.
This right to interstate travel has three components: (a) the right of a citizen of one state to enter and leave another state, (b) the right to be treated as a welcome visitor while in another state, and (c) the right to resettle in a new state and be treated equally with the citizens thereof.
Read the rest from Andrew C. McCarthy HERE.

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