Richard Sobel


As a fundamental right inherent in American citizenship and the nature of the federal union, the right to travel in the United States is basic to American liberty. The right precedes the creation of the United States and appears in the Articles of Confederation. The U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court recognize and protect the right to interstate travel. The travel right entails privacy and free domestic movement without governmental abridgement.

In the era of surveillance, the imposition of official photo identification for travel, watchlist prescreening programs, and invasive airport scans and searches unreasonably burden the right to travel. They undermine citizen rights to travel and to privacy. These regulations impermissibly require citizens to relinquish one fundamental right of privacy in order to exercise another fundamental right of travel. The government must preserve these rights in addressing policy goals. The original conception of the right to travel embodies it as a broadly-based freedom that encompasses all modes of transport. Its explicit articulation in the Articles of Confederation became implicit in the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Constitution. Contrary to the appellate “single mode doctrine,” abridgement of any mode of transportation undermines the constitutionally enshrined travel right. The U.S. Supreme Court needs to rearticulate an originally consistent and politically robust multi-modal right to travel.