In a case regarding a specific gun control law which bans “unauthorized aliens” (illegal immigrants) from possessing firearms in the United States, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit did the work of a contortionist by upholding the law while also pointing out that they “see no principled way to carve out the Second Amendment and say that the unauthorized (or maybe all noncitizens) are excluded.”
In a word—illegal immigrants have Second Amendment rights too.
The case was titled United States v. Meza-Rodriguez, and the decision was handed down on August 20.
The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports that the decision was written by Judge Diane Wood “for a panel that included Judges Frank Easterbrook and Joel Flaum.”
As for the background to the case, Wood explained that “Mariano Meza-Rodriguez, a citizen of Mexico, was arrested in August 2013… [and found to be] carrying a .22 caliber cartridge.” Because he did not have “documentation” to show that he was in the United States lawfully, he was charged as being in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(5), which forbids illegal immigrants from possessing firearms in the United States.
Meza-Rodriquez was indicted. He then challenged the indictment by claiming “§ 922(g)(5) impermissibly infringed on his rights under the Second Amendment to the Constitution.” The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin rejected Meza-Rodriquez’s claim, thereby upholding the indictment. He appealed the District Court’s decision, thus bringing the case to the 7th Circuit.
In working through the case, Wood indicated that certain aspects of the language in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) support the view “that all people, including non-U.S. citizens, whether or not they are authorized to be in the country, enjoy at least some rights under the Second Amendment.”
In a post-Heller world, where it is now clear that the Second Amendment right to bear arms is no second-class entitlement, we see no principled way to carve out the Second Amendment and say that the unauthorized (or maybe all noncitizens) are excluded. No language in the Amendment supports such a conclusion, nor, as we have said, does a broader consideration of the Bill of Rights.
Yet the 7th Circuit upheld the District Court’s ruling—which upheld Meza-Rodriguez’s indictment—on the grounds that “the Second Amendment does not preclude certain restrictions on the right to bear arms, including the one imposed by § 922(g)(5).”
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.