With the 2024 Presidential election looming ahead of us, we’ve witnessed candidates from both the Democratic and Republican parties reveal their take on a host of issues, including immigration. This means yet another year of candidates spreading myths and misinformation about the U.S. undocumented immigrants, and further trying to strip them of their rights to vote, work, and live pretty much like regular citizens.
This results in the general public including undocumented immigrants being misinformed about their rights. The reality is that the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted some provisions under the Constitution to apply to “non-citizens.” What this means in plain English is undocumented immigrants have rights, and they deserve to know what they are.
Fifth Amendment: due process
Undocumented immigrants have the right to be heard and given the opportunity for a fair hearing. This includes having an impartial judge who decides the basis of their case on sufficient evidence. If more undocumented immigrants knew that they had a right to a fair trial, this would help them solve their individual problems and cases much more efficiently than what we are doing now.
Additionally, there would not be this fear of the legal system and instead re-branding it as a tool that could help them in their journey towards citizenship. I understand the fear and the hesitation to reach out and ask for help, especially from a system that seems to be built against you. The fact is that there are people working within the system for you, and they would do everything they can to ensure you are protected. We just need to guide undocumented individuals to the right places and the right people.
Fourth Amendment: search and seizure
This amendment protects undocumented immigrants from unreasonable search or seizure by police officers. This can include searching their homes, vehicles, or their person. Officers must have reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed for them to search an individual.
In some cases, a warrant is required for them to conduct a search. However, this requirement can be excused if the individual provides consent to the search in case there is probable cause, an emergency, or in case items are in plain sight. Because of the depth and amount of exceptions within this Amendment, cases involving search and seizures are extremely nuanced.
This would have to be analyzed by an attorney on an individual basis, but that should not scare away any individuals who feel as if their rights may have been violated under the guise of the law.
With how hostile the political environment is about to become within the next few months, these hostilities are going to bleed into society, and we are going to see an uptick in discrimination of all forms against communities of color, including undocumented individuals.
Right to a safe work environment
Undocumented immigrants are also entitled to a work environment where they are respected, and their well-being is prioritized. This means the company ensures that the employees are taking necessary precautions in dealing with hazardous or dangerous materials. There is a system in place for identifying hazards and reporting them without fear of repercussions. It is no surprise that companies will take advantage of the most vulnerable populations.
We’ve seen this time and time again with alleged reputable, brand-name companies violating every labor and employment law in existence. Employers will try to threaten undocumented individuals and use intimidation tactics to force them to stay. But you have the right to a work environment that is safe and that you feel safe in. If there is any time when that is not the case, you can get legal advice on how to fight against discriminatory practices like these.
Right to education
Schools and Universities cannot discriminate against undocumented students. They are not allowed to try to use coercive means to force the student or their families into revealing their citizenship status. So the U.S. undocumented immigrants have the same right to go to school as everyone else. Education is the biggest tool that we can use to better inform ourselves and the people around us.
Additionally, with higher education such as a college or graduate degree, we are afforded more opportunities that allow us to have a better life. This is a tool that so many undocumented individuals can use to their advantage and fight against the harmful narratives and stereotypes that are projected onto them. Individuals who are undocumented work harder and are much more motivated than anyone I’ve seen. When you are at risk of losing everything, you give everything you’ve got. But now that we know the rights that are afforded to undocumented individuals, the stakes do not have to be all or nothing. We owe the bare minimum to helping undocumented individuals who contribute just as much to society as we do, even if we don’t see that.
These are just a few rights that the U.S. undocumented immigrants have. There are several organizations and resources out there dedicated to helping undocumented immigrants be protected from being abused and taken advantage of.
The law and legal system can be complicated and convoluted at times, but there are people who are committed to helping this community understand the breadth of their rights. While the noise surrounding the undocumented community is only going to get louder as the 2024 election gets closer, it’s important for everyone to do their own research and get educated. If you have or know anyone who is undocumented, help guide them toward resources that they can use. The more we educate our communities, the less misinformation we allow to spread.