The Constitution of the United States grants undeniable rights to the citizens of the country. When a person or group of people enter the country without obtaining legal citizenship, they enter the country’s jurisdiction with an unclear understanding of which rights might apply to them.
While U.S. law grants certain protections for all persons who reside in its national jurisdiction, the law also provides fundamental legal rights — citizen or not.
Undocumented immigrants’ rights in the United States
Because the Constitution affords rights on the basis of personhood, its provisions provide undocumented immigrants with undeniable, basic rights. These include the right to:
- Freedom of religion
- Free speech
- Legal counsel
- Family integrity and unification
- Due process
Undocumented immigrants also possess the right against unreasonable search and seizure, as well as procedural rights involved when facing deportation, such as the right to a hearing and interpretation for non-English speaking immigrants in proceedings.
As undocumented persons navigate immigration laws and regulations, it is crucial to understand not only what laws allow them to come to the country, but what laws grant them legal privileges while on U.S. soil.
How these laws apply varies slightly due to one’s non-citizen status. For example, the right to legal counsel does not indicate free, government-appointed counsel, and some legal mechanisms allow for search and seizure within the border zone, as it is legally “reasonable” in those regions.
However, many undocumented immigrants are not aware of their protections when they enter the country. These important protections prevent unlawful discrimination and unjust treatment of an individual purely based on citizenship status.