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Constitution Day: The United States Constitution

Constitution Day

Constitution Day will be celebrated in the United States Tuesday, September 17, 2019. This holiday celebrates the adoption of the US Constitution in 1789.

The United States Constitution

A recent poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center shows a lot of confusion about the US Constitution among many Americans. This guide is intended to provide basic information about the constitution and guide you to more information.

The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the United States and is the source of government power, while also providing limits on the government in order to protect the fundamental rights of US citizens. 

The constitution was signed by 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention September 17, 1787 and came into effect March 9, 1789. 

Learn more about our constitution here. For the text of the constitution, click here.

Library Resources 

These are only some of the many resources we have on the United States Constitution. For individualized research help, please email us at 


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Constitutional Rights of Illegal Immigrants

The recent Annenberg Public Policy Center poll found that more than half of Americans believe illegal immigrants do not have any constitutional rights, but this is not entirely accurate, as many of our constitutional rights are not limited to US citizens. 

For example, the US Supreme Court ruled in Yick Wo v. Hopkins that illegal immigrants do have Equal Protection rights under the constitution.

Here are summaries of some other important cases regarding the constitutional rights of illegal immigrants:

Library Resources

Enemy Combatants & the War on Terror

Another hot button area of constitutional law has centered around the rights of enemy combatants captured during the war on terror. Here are some important constitutional cases in this area: 

Library Resources

The Branches of Government

  • The legislative branch - the House of Representatives and the Senate - passes the laws.
  • The executive branch - headed by the president - enforces the laws.
  • The judicial branch - headed by the US Supreme Court - evaluates and applies the laws. 

Separation of Powers

The constitution is designed to allow each branch of government to "check" the other branches.

  • The president can veto legislation passed by Congress 
  • The president nominates other important members of the government, including the justices of the Supreme Court and the heads of federal agencies
  • The Senate reviews and confirms (or rejects) the president's nominees, including Supreme Court justices 
  • Congress can remove the president from office in some circumstances 
  • The justices of the Supreme Court can overturn unconstitutional laws and governmental actions
  • The justices of the Supreme Court interpret and apply the laws passed by Congress 

The Bill of Rights

The phrase "The Bill of Rights" refers to the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution, written by James Madison in response to criticism that the Constitution did not adequately protect individual rights. For more about the history of the Bill of Rights, click here.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

History of the Amendment & Major Cases

Amendment II

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

History of the Amendment & Major Cases

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

History of the Amendment & Major Cases

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

History of the Amendment & Major Cases

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

History of the Amendment & Major Cases

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

History of the Amendment & Major Cases

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

History of the Amendment & Major Cases

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

History of the Amendment & Major Cases

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

History of the Amendment & Major Cases

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

History of the Amendment & Major Cases

Other Amendments

For a list of the other Amendments to the constitution, click here.

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This guide is intended to give a general overview of the Constitution and our system of government, as well as some historical information. It may not contain the most up to date legal information and should not be considered legal advice. For help with up to date legal research email us at For legal advice, please consult an attorney.