At first glance, Thursday’s Supreme Court decision holding that an illegal alien couldn’t be convicted for possessing a firearm because he didn’t understand his status looks like the height of illegals’ coddling at the expense of common sense – not to mention obvious public safety considerations, and the legal principle that “ignorance of the law is no excuse” for violating it.
In fact, although the 7-2 ruling is defensible on the narrowest possible legal grounds (grounds that are entirely legitimate and time-honored bases for Court decisions, especially for believers in what’s known as the doctrine of judicial restraint), it reveals something at least as disturbing: how thoroughly and dangerously recent decades of lax pre-Trump immigration policies have fostered a sense of entitlement among illegals. And only slightly less disturbing: The law itself that’s in question contains its own evidence of illegal aliens coddling.
The majority’s opinion turned on the specific question of whether a law barring illegal aliens from owning firearms permits conviction only if the defendant “knowingly” violates the statute. Although this conclusion seems to overlook completely the venerable “ignorance of the law” maxim, as the majority importantly reminds, this principle (like most others worth following) isn’t absolute. I also find convincing the argument that the statute’s wording makes clear that, in this particular case, lawmakers intended the “knowingly” criteria to apply to illegal aliens’ awareness of their immigration status under the law.
But at this point, I get off the boat policy-wise. Because how on earth does any illegal alien in the United States who can pass a sanity test get the idea that he can live his or her life without being acutely aware of their immigration status? Similarly, why did the defendant believe that he had just as much of a right to own a (substantially regulated) deadly weapon as any legal American resident? Especially when he had just been told that his legal immigration status was hanging by a threat – at best. And if you think that the second and third questions are exaggerations, get a load of this description (from the dissenting opinion) of the defendant’s actions after the college he was enrolled him told him by email that, because of poor academic performance, “he was no longer enrolled and that, unless he was admitted elsewhere, his status as a lawful alien would be terminated”:
“Petitioner’s response was to move to a hotel and frequent a firing range. Each evening he checked into the hotel and always demanded a room on the eighth floor facing the airport. Each morning he checked out and paid his bill with cash, spending a total of more than $11,000. This went on for 53 days.”
To me, the answer obviously is that for so long it has been so easy to enter the United States illegally, and for legal entrants to stay once their visas have expired, that many believe that they have every right to be in the country and to be treated exactly like legal residents and citizens.
In some instances, they’re correct. Principally, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment means that everyone in the United States at any given moment, no matter what the conditions, is entitled to the full range of protections offered by U.S. law. But these convictions also frequently extend to assumptions that illegals are also due any number of welfare state benefits, privileges like drivers’ licenses, and even the right to vote. And of course, these assumptions have constantly be aided and abetted – and often created by – Open Borders-oriented illegal aliens’ advocacy groups and even state and local governments.
It’s equally obvious that the federal gun ownership law (which is found starting on p. 13 of the opinion linked above), unwittingly or not, betrays the illegals-coddling mindset mentioned above. After all, why specify that illegals need to violate the statute “knowingly.” They’re not supposed to be here in the first place. Systematic knowledge about them is lacking – including criminal records in their home countries. Why should they be granted any right to possess a gun under any circumstances?
So it’s clearly time to rewrite the law – especially since the “knowingly” standard is even more absurd for many other categories of individuals it denies gun ownership, like “fugitives from justice” and recipients of court orders restraining them from harming or harassing their “intimate partners” and the children thereof.
After all, one of the clearest lessons about immigration policies taught over the decades since the 1986 amnesty is that the messages sent by Washington’s words and deeds greatly influence foreigners’ willingness to enter the United States illegally. If a reasonable degree of control over U.S. borders is to be reestablished, it’s time to send out a new one: From now on, within the legal bounds set by the Equal Protection Clause, American law is going to start making it harder for illegal aliens to behave in ways that endanger citizens and other legal residents, not easier.