In a 19 page decision, which you can read for yourself by clicking here, The United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled today that 2nd Amendment Rights, described in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, extend to all persons in the United States, even “undocumented immigrants”.
According to the 7th Circuit:
On August 24, 2013, Rodriguez was identified by several eye-witnesses, and confirmed via security footage, at one bar pointing a firearm at patrons, and another bar for starting a fight. As responding officers were breaking up the fight in the 2nd bar, they recognized Meza-Rodriguez from the security footage at the first bar, apprehended him, patted him down, and discovered ammunition in his pockets. As he is in this country illegally, this is considered a felony charge, and Meza-Rodriguez was deported. Once again, referencing the decision:
The court goes on to argue that:
The consequences of Meza-Rodriguez’s conviction are not theoretical; his right ever to reenter the United States hangs in the balance. Diaz recognized that “statutory disabilities such as loss of the right to vote or the right to own a gun” are sufficient to save an appeal from mootness.
The decision then goes on to reference other cases (you can read them for yourself) that they believe confirm their finding
that all persons, regardless of citizenship, who are part of our “national community” or who manifest a “sufficient connection with this country” are entitled to the rights that those amendments bestow (referencing the 1st, 2nd, and 4th amendments)
It’s very interesting to me that the 7th Circuit would claim that the Government is “bestowing” rights, when in fact, those Amendments merely prohibit the Government from infringing on them… But, beginning on page 7, things really start to get interesting… The 7th Circuit references Heller v DC, which decided that the “right to keep and bear arms” was an individual right, not a collective one. They go on to say that The Supreme Court has not specifically defined who embodies “the people” by saying:
neither Heller nor any other Supreme Court decision has addressed the issue whether unauthorized noncitizens (or noncitizens at all) are among “the people”
Further reading shows that the 7th circuit relies on other court findings to reach its conclusion. They go on to say that since the Supreme Court, in the Heller decision, stated that “The People” shares a common definition with other Amendments, like the 4th, then the definition of “The People” can be extrapolated from other decisions:
In Verdugo-Urquidez, the Court determined that the Fourth Amendment did not protect a noncitizen brought involuntarily to the United States …
“the people” refers to a class of persons who are part of a national community or who have otherwise developed sufficient connection with this country to be considered part of that community
aliens receive constitutional protections when they have come within the territory of the United States and developed substantial connections with this country”
Having set these stipulations in place, the court goes on to state there is no debate that Meza-Rodriguez was in the country voluntarily. They say that because he lived here for 20 years, and attended public schools in Milwaukee, he has ‘extensive ties’ to the country and developed deep relationships with family members & other acquaintances. The court goes on to state, in regards to these facts:
This is much more than the connections our sister circuits have found to be adequate.
Having established a persons two prerequisites for being eligible for Constitutional Rights, regardless of citizenship, as being “voluntarily in the United States” and “part of the national community”, the court concludes:
Meza-Rodriguez satisfies both those criteria. He has lived continuously in the United States for nearly all his life. During that time, his behavior left much to be desired, but as we have said, that does not mean that he lacks substantial connections with this country. Plyler shows that even unauthorized aliens enjoy certain constitutional rights, and so unauthorized status cannot support a per se exclusion from “the people” protected by the Bill of Rights. In the 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.
And while the decision goes on to state
Meza-Rodriguez’s ability to invoke the Second Amendment does not resolve this case, however, because the right to bear arms is not unlimited.
Their previously mentioned decision that 2nd Amendment Rights can extend to “noncitizens” who meet two sets of specific criteria have already brought about a few lines of thinking from various people:
#1.) That this decision could be a precursor to establishing voting rights for Illegal immigrants.
#2.) If non citizens have a right to bear arms then that would invalidate any permitting process that requires a government issued identification.
#3.) The decision defines a group of people who can be excluded from the 2nd Amendment as those “who are difficult to track and who have an interest in eluding law enforcement”, some have said this opens the door for a national gun registry, or at the very least, arbitrary definitions of ineligible people that can be used to strip the rights of otherwise law abiding gun owners.
We have yet to see whether or not these lines of thinking can carry any weight in the courts. The fact remains that, while the 7th Circuit ultimately upheld the District Court’s denial of dismissal, they have still confirmed that the definition of “The People” extends beyond legal citizenship in the U.S. and, consequently, so do the Rights outlined in the Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment.