Court Monitor

Second Amendment Extended to Illegal Aliens

This case presented a dilemma for a liberal federal appellate judge in Chicago, forcing a choice between two unattractive results. Should the Second Amendment be expanded in scope to include illegal aliens -- or should illegal aliens be denied a constitutional right available to citizens? Liberals are no friend of the Second Amendment, but they do want illegal aliens to have the same rights as citizens.

If the court held that the Second Amendment does not protect illegal aliens, then that would set a precedent for other constitutional rights not to apply to illegals either, such as the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Could this make it more difficult or impossible for illegal aliens to obtain driver's licenses, attend public school, receive welfare benefits, or even vote? Yes, a ruling that the Second Amendment does not apply to illegal aliens could undermine their demand for other rights.

This case landed on appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, where there are two prominent judges named "Diane" who have opposite ideologies. Diane Wood was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1995, and Diane Sykes was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2004.

The liberal Diane Wood was assigned to decide this case, along with two Republican appointees, Frank Easterbrook and Joel Flaum. Although conservative on most issues, Judge Easterbrook sides with liberals on the Second Amendment, which gave Judge Diane Wood a majority on her three-judge panel and, as Chief Judge, she wrote the opinion.

Defendant Mariano Meza-Rodriguez had come to the United States illegally when he was five years old, but was arrested while trying to flee from police after a bar fight in Milwaukee. Defendant Meza-Rodriguez was found to have a .22 caliber cartridge, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(5), which makes it unlawful for an illegal alien to possess ammunition. He was subsequently convicted and deported, and an appeal ensued. If Judge Wood were to hold that the Second Amendment does not protect illegal aliens, then she would be demoting them to second-class status, thereby raising doubts about whether they have the protection of other constitutional rights. Liberal Judge Wood was not going to rule in a way suggesting that illegal aliens lack constitutional rights.

So with the support of a Republican-appointed judge hostile to the Second Amendment, Judge Wood held that the Second Amendment broadly protects illegal aliens, but that the federal statute prohibiting possession of ammunition by an illegal alien was a valid limitation of that constitutional right. United States v. Meza-Rodriguez, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 14670 (7th Cir. Aug. 20, 2015).

In other words, Judge Wood stretched the Second Amendment widely and thinly, in order to give this constitutional right to illegal aliens while also diluting its strength by allowing a federal law to limit that right. The conviction (and deportation) of the defendant was upheld, while the third judge on the panel expressed his dismay that the coverage of the Second Amendment was extended to illegal aliens.