What Rights (if any) Do Undocumented Immigrants have?

The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution grants every “person” in the US certain rights. Yes, the 14th Amendment clearly uses the word “person” not citizen. It does not suggest in any way that human rights be limited to native born Americans. Yet, this is the way some people have chosen to parse this very important protection when it comes to undocumented persons residing in the US. I am Erika Roman an immigration attorney in Van Nuys and at Elrlaw Group we believe that every person is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is not a minority belief. It is the chief principal upon which this country was founded. The belief that human and civil rights apply to non-citizens is also a belief that has been consistently upheld by the Supreme Court. Examples of these rulings include:

  • Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886)

·         Wong Wing v. U.S. (1896)

·         Plyler v. Doe (1982)

  • Zadvydas v. Davis (2001)

The Rights You Do have as an Undocumented Immigrant

Often, both citizens and non-citizens are confused as to which rights they do have under the constitution. Make no doubt about it, you do have certain rights even if you are undocumented and we are willing to fight for them. The rights that all persons who are in the United States have are based on the concept of Equal Protection. Here are several of these rights.

  • The right to a trial by jury
  • The right to a Miranda warning
  • The right to defend yourself against charges and deportation
  • The right to representation in criminal court
  • The right to protection against unlawful search and seizure
  • The right to protection against self-incrimination\
  • The right to file civil lawsuits
  • The right to be paid for work performed
  • The right to a healthy and safe work environment
  • The right to organize or form a union
  • The right to a free K-12 education

This list of your rights as an undocumented person is by no means exhaustive. You also have the right to receive healthcare and other programs that keep you safe and ensure your well being e.g., fire, police services, etc. In final analysis, the courts have ruled that, persons residing within the borders of the United States – undocumented immigrants immigrationincluded – are granted the same fundamental, undeniable constitutional rights granted to all Americans. If you have questions about immigration rights in Los Angeles, contact my office.


The Long Term Effects of Family Separation on Children

It is in the very nature of children, especially young ones, to see parents as invincible, immortal and able to protect them from any danger. Children derive a sense of stability, permanence and well being from them as well. It is quite a shock when they learn that the center of their world can seismically shift at any moment tearing them from the protective grasp and watchful eyes of loving parents. This is what is and has happened as a result of the current immigration policy which seeks to punish immigrants (and asylum seekers). For adults can more readily adapt to change, can better handle what might traumatize a still developing mind and ego. Children are not so equipped. That is why it is important to look carefully at what the current policy of family separation is having on the most vulnerable members of any society.

  • Physical as well as emotional harm: It’s easy for even those who support family separation to accept that such a policy is not good for small children psychologically. However, what many people don’t realize is that family separation can take a long term toll on the health of a child. Adverse Childhood Experiences – (ACEs) as they are called – can lead to survivors suffering from anxiety and depression throughout adulthood.
  • Can cause a form of PTSD: Studies conducted during the Second World War, (Pesonen & Räikkönen, 2012; Rusby & Tasker, 2009; Mitrani, Santisteban, & Muir, 2004), suggest that since children have less powerful coping mechanisms than adults, they can suffer from their own form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) long after the triggering events is over.
  • Removes a child’s emotional buffer from life’s traumas: Parents serve as a way to buffer and in a sense absorb some of life’s stresses that children are not able to handle. Removing this from a child in his/her formative years can lead to mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and behavior problems. None of us should be deprived from our primary support system.2018-09-27_1311

In short, in many ways the damage has already been done by the “zero tolerance” separation policy. However, that does not mean that we should resign ourselves to accepting the current situation as it stands. We must fight to protect immigrants and asylum seekers. We must do so for ourselves and our children and because we are better than this. My firm fights for Immigration rights in Los Angeles for them and for society as a whole. As an immigration attorney in Van Nuys, I fight for families who have been wrenched apart and housed in (ICE)-run detention centers as their welcome to this land.