Stefan Molyneaux, on Twitter, said:

If even one American is found to be one of the forces behind the Honduran ‘caravan,’ that’s straight up treason.

He is referring to the migrant caravan that originated in Honduras and that is currently on its way to the United States border.

Now, I know that Molyneaux is not a law expert and that he was not educated in the legal profession. I also know that Molyneaux is intending to be provocative and probably doesn't care much whether what he says has any legal logic. (On a personal note: I think that most of what Molyneaux says is nonsense) Despite all of this, what he said still made me wonder if there is any merit to his claim.

According to Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

Would helping to plan the caravan be "..adhering to [the United States's] enemies, giving them aid and comfort"? Under Article III, Section 3, could the act of aiding the caravan be considered treason?

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    "Treason against the United States, shall consist ...in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort." I wonder what the legal definition of "enemy" here is? Can a single person be an enemy? Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 12:51
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    "During the thirteenth century, the crime of treason encompassed virtually every act contrary to the king's will and became a political tool of the Crown" [legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/treason] - perhaps Molyneaux is still in the 13th century.
    – BobE
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 14:15
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    "The Treason Clause applies only to disloyal acts committed during times of war." [legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/treason]
    – BobE
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 14:22
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    Treason, no. Criminal, possibly.
    – Richard
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 17:55
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    Nothing from that link suggests that any of them want to cross illegally. It is just a bunch of interviews of migrants saying why they are heading towards the US border. Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 19:12

2 Answers 2


Reading some background on Stefan Molyneux (Wikipedia) would indicate that he is a (Canadian) right-wing provocateur (Merriam-Webster) and there is no legal logic to his claim that anyone involved with the migrant caravan - either as a refugee or a person giving aid - is committing an act of treason.

Provocateurs - on the political left or right - seek to incite arguments and/or movements on social or political issues with emotion and not on legal frameworks or logical discussion. Provocateurs use words and phrases that can be identified as Dog-whistles (Wikipedia). Calling out "treason" and accusing one of being a traitor are examples of dog whistles.

The legal reasoning against leveling calls of treason against anyone helping the caravan members are many; the migrants are not (from the U.S. Constitution:)

levying war against them (the US), or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort....


• None of the countries of origin of the migrants are currently in armed conflict with the U.S.

• None of the migrants - alone or as a whole - are armed to engage the U.S. or are a threat to the U.S.

• The refugees are easily identified as economic migrants, political refugees or those fleeing violence (domestic, communal, sectarian).

• According to Refugee law (Wikipedia) and US Federal law, migrants have a right to due process at the border.

• There is no clear proof of an ulterior motive or funding for the migrants in the the caravans.

There could be - now or in the future - Americans or American-based aid groups helping individuals or the group as a whole with necessities with food and safety while they travel or after they arrive at the border. But the fact remains that each migrant - when and if they reach the US border - will be legally assessed individually as a migrant or refugee. The aid they may have received is really no different than what many NGOs provide who help arrange a refugees' processing through legal immigration channels, in some instances in conjunction with a US Government agency or with an arm of the United Nations. Such aid by an American is not treasonous for the legal reasoning above.

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    I gave legal reasons - not political reasons - why there is no merit to his arguments. It sounds like you are more interested in the political background of what he said; that's a better fit for politics.stackexchange.com Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 3:23
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    Agreed. Also, "enemy" in the sense of the treason clause means a country or organization with which the United States is at war or in active armed hostilities with, something that does not remotely encompass a group of unarmed migrants who purport to be refugees from Central American countries with whom the U.S. is not at war and has not been in armed hostilities with for many decades.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 3:28
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    I agree that his statements are nonsense. I just wanted to know if what he said had any merit. I find it helpful to know how to combat arguments I disagree with. Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 7:14
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    This is right. The use of "treason" here is in the sense of "I don't like what you're doing, but America is really patriotic so I only need to call you a 'traitor' to encourage you to stop", which is increasingly in vogue right now. Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 9:31
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    It seems to me that the answer hinges on the definition of "enemies" in that phrase. At one extreme, if one interprets "enemies" as "anyone we don't like", then the definition of treason becomes more expansive. -- @ohwilleke, do you have any references (e.g. Supreme Court decisions) for "enemy" in Article 2 section 3 being restricted to "organizations in active armed hostilities"? (I agree that would be how I would interpret it in context, but my opinion on the matter holds exactly zero weight, legally speaking.)
    – R.M.
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 17:06

According to 50 USC § 2204 [Title 50. War and National Defense]

"enemy of the United States" means any country, government, group, or person that has been engaged in hostilities, whether or not lawfully authorized, with the United States.

This is not limited to nations, but it is limited to those activly engaged in the use of force against the US.

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    I have upvoted this answer, but it should be noted that the cited definition does not apply directly to the crime of treason, because it is scoped to the chapter in which it is found, while treason is defined in a different chapter (indeed, in a different title, at 18 USC chapter 115). Still it seems likely that a similar definition would apply to the crime of treason.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 12:41
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    Although there's a fair body of analysis of the Treason Clause, explanation of what specifically constitutes an Enemy is notable by its absence from the literature. In part, I suspect, this is because no case law has yet hinged upon that. However, it seems unlikely that enemy of the United States as it pertains to the Treason Clause could be bent so far out of shape as to encompass people who want to come into, live in, and work in the United States; none of which being treasonable overt acts on their faces.
    – JdeBP
    Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 13:17

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