A common assertion is that if you reside in the United States illegally, you do not have constitutional rights. Although this is a common assertion, it could not be farther from the truth. Besides a few exceptions including, voting, running for president or Congress, the United States Constitutions guarantees many of the same civil right and liberties to both citizens and non-citizens.
It is estimated that over 11 million people are living in the United States illegally. The majority of these undocumented immigrants are unaware of what legal protections they are guaranteed. In an effort to spread awareness both attorneys and immigration rights advocates have hosted “Know Your Rights” workshops.
These workshops occur all around the country and help undocumented immigrants know their rights as well as what they can do when they are confronted with immigration enforcement.
The legal protections of illegal immigrants can be found in the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Within this clause, it states that anyone is assured the same protection of the law, this includes both U.S. citizens and any person living within the jurisdiction.
This means as long as you live in the United States, whether you are documented or not, you have the right to be protected by the laws as well as have fair treatment in the judicial system.
The 1973 High Court’s decision of Almeida-Sanchez v. United States helps to enforce this principle. The decision stated that all non-citizens, despite their legal status, are protected by criminally related amendments of the Constitution. This includes legal protection for search and seizure, trial by jury, self-incrimination, and freedom of expression.
Undocumented immigrants are also protected under the Fourth Amendment, which protects people against unreasonable searches and seizures. Unless an undocumented immigrant gives consent or law enforcement have a warrant to search the house, they can deny entry to law enforcement.
Equal protection was expanded in 1982 due to the Plyler v. Doe decision. This case was a “landmark decision” that stated that public education could not be denied due to those who are illegal immigrants. The court decided that the Texas law violated the Equal Protection clause and therefore all children are entitled to public education.
These are just a few of the legal rights that undocumented immigrants possess. Besides a select few exceptions, undocumented citizens are entitled to many of the same rights as United States citizens.