Published on:

U.S. Courts Rule that Second Amendment Rights Do Not Extend to Undocumented Immigrants

The recent shootings in Connecticut have touched the lives of most Americans, and, as an immigration lawyer, I know that they may even affect the lives of undocumented aliens. While there is a raging debate in the media about whether some types of guns should be available to Americans, the 4th Circuit court has already decided that guns of any type should not be available to undocumented immigrants.

In the case United States vs. Carpio-Leon, the defendant Nicolas Carpio-Leon had lived in South Carolina for thirteen years and had three American-born children. In the course of a legal police search that Carpio-Leon had authorized, law enforcement officials discovered a .22 caliber Marlin rifle, a 9 mm Hi-Point pistol and some ammunition. He was then charged with possessing firearms while illegally residing in the country under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(5).

The defendant argued that the 2nd and 5th Amendment protections should extend to him despite his status as an illegal alien. He stated that the right to bear arms as stated in the 2nd Amendment should include him as part of the “people.” He used the equal protection clause of the 5th Amendment to contend that he should not be distinguished from other Americans. During the course of the trial, Carpio-Leon argued that the guns were only present to protect his family and that he was not a threat to public safety. He also confirmed that he had entered the country illegally and used a fraudulent Social Security number to obtain a driver’s license.

After the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the charges, which the court denied, Carpio-Leon was found guilty and ordered deported. Upon appeal to the federal appeals court, the ruling that denied the 2nd and 5th Amendment rights to the defendant was confirmed.

The appeals court clarified the lower court’s judgment by stating that the right to bear arms has been historically limited to the community of law-abiding members, which has typically excluded certain members of society like convicted felons. The court judged that illegal aliens are not law-abiding members of society and do not possess this right, although it may still have other rights like due process.

The court also confirmed that 5th Amendment protections are not available to illegal aliens. Because undocumented immigrants often assume false identities and are more difficult to trace, they should not be allowed to possess firearms in the interest of public safety.

Whether the federal government ultimately decides to ban some types of guns from the homes of U.S. citizens or not, if you are in the United States without a work permit or green card, you should understand that you can be convicted and deported if you possess guns of any kind. I understand that it may be an important safeguard for you and your family, but the risk is that you may lose your right to stay in the country.


As an immigration lawyer, I can provide pertinent legal advice on how to deal with this and related issues. To confidentially discuss this or other matters, please contact my office at (512) 215-5225.