The sins of the father should not be visited on the son. Honestly, if House Mystal was in Westeros (I think I know what sigil you think I should have), those would be our words. It’s awful when a whole family is shamed for the mistakes of one member. Nobody wants to be in the position of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s crazy uncle.
Thankfully, in civilized societies, we don’t hold children criminally responsible for the crimes of their forebears. That’s pretty much a bedrock principle of modern jurisprudence. Guilt by association might happen in the public sphere (sorry, Jeb Bush — I think everybody knows your brother, President Fredo, should have been passed over), but in the legal sphere, we have a little thing called “due process.”
It’s a constitutional principle Representative Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) had to be reminded of yesterday…
The Huffington Post reports that on Wednesday, Congressman Tom Cotton of Arkansas introduced a foreign relations amendment that would “automatically” punish the family members of people who violate U.S. sanctions against Iran with up to 20 years in prison. You see, sometimes violators stash money with family members, and in response, Cotton wanted to be able to punish all family members everywhere without a trial or even an investigation. It’s a nice 16th-century solution to a 21st-century problem.
It’s also blatantly unconstitutional. From the Huffington Post:
The amendment immediately sparked objections from several members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who noted that the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees due process rights to anyone charged with a crime under American law.
“An amendment is being offered literally to allow the sins of the uncles to descend on the nephews,” Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) said. “The amendment that’s being offered doesn’t even indicate a requirement of knowing violation. … I really question the constitutionality of a provision that punishes nephews for the sins of the uncles.”
Article III of the Constitution explicitly bans Congress from punishing treason based on “corruption of blood” — meaning that relatives of those convicted of treason cannot be punished based only on a familial tie.
But Cotton wasn’t through. He doubled down on racism and ignorance when he said this:
“Iranian citizens do not have constitutional rights under the United States Constitution,” Cotton said. “I sympathize with their plight if they are harmless, innocent civilians in Iran. I doubt that that is often the case.”
Oh, well if Tom Freaking Cotton doubts your innocence, I guess we’re done here.
Cotton eventually withdrew his amendment when even fellow Republicans started making the “cuckoo” gesture and rolled their eyes. So I guess Benedict Arnold’s descendants can sleep well for another day.