The Rights of Undocumented Immigrants


Undocumented immigrants are people who have entered the country, often illegally, with no legal documentation, such as a visa, passport or green card to legitimize their status. Estimates vary, but there are as many as 15 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, with nearly half coming from Mexico. Many work in the United States, particularly in the service sector. Despite their unauthorized status, undocumented immigrants have some rights in the United States.

Right to Remain Silent

  • Undocumented immigrants have the right to remain silent when questioned by the police. The only piece of information someone is required to give under the laws of most states is their names; otherwise, the only person who can force an undocumented immigrant, or anyone for that matter, to provide information is a judge.

Search Warrant

  • Law enforcement cannot simply show up at the door of an undocumented immigrant and search the premises. They must have a search warrant, and it should explain why the property is being searched. If the law enforcement official does not have a search warrant then you can deny access to the property. Any individual can be searched if the law enforcement official believes the person has a weapon in her possession.

Right to an Attorney

  • Whether a citizen or not, every person in the United States has the right to ask for an attorney. Police cannot question you once you make that request. It is advisable for an undocumented immigrant to have a contact for an attorney in her possession in the event she is detained. Unlike citizens, undocumented immigrants do not have the right to have a government-paid attorney.

Public Education

  • All children younger than 18 are entitled to free public education, including undocumented immigrants and/or their children. States cannot deny a public education regardless of anyone's immigration status and cannot seek to identify undocumented children. Various attempts to change the law in several states have been struck down by federal appeals courts.

Medical Assistance

  • Undocumented immigrants are entitled to emergency medical care in any publicly funded hospital. Federal law states that all patients, including undocumented immigrants, must be provided emergency medical services in the event they are sick or injured.


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