In the United States, illegal immigrants are part of the culture now more than ever. States like California, Texas, and Arizona – states on or near the border – tend to have a higher population of illegal immigrants, but they are a prevalent part of society in many other areas as well.
While the rights of illegal immigrants are a touchy subject for some people, the courts have upheld that all people in the United States, whether they’re living here legally or not, have certain fundamental rights. However, illegal immigrants don’t have the exact same rights as American-born, or naturalized citizens, or as citizens living in the United States with a valid visa.
If you’re an illegal immigrant living in the United States, knowing which rights and laws apply to you is important – the same goes for employers that hire illegal immigrants. To be informed on the law is essential, but it can be a little tricky at times.
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness might sound like a tired phrase to some, but these rights are incredibly important for many illegal immigrants. According to the Supreme Court and U.S. Constitution, these rights are for everyone in the United States regardless of their legal status, meaning that no state, federal, or private entity shall disregard them.
Illegal immigrants also have the right to due process and equal protection under the law despite their legal status, skin color or religion according to the Supreme Court.
The Right to Medical Care
While many illegal immigrants try to stay away from hospitals and doctor’s offices, the right to medical care is one right illegal immigrants do have- at least in serious emergency situations. A dentist may not be willing to treat an illegal immigrant without insurance or ID, but a hospital that offers emergency care will.
The Right to Earn a Fair Wage
Many illegal immigrants that come to the United States work low paying, often labor-based jobs. In many cases, these are jobs that American citizens don’t want because of the hard work, long hours and nominal pay. For illegal immigrants, these jobs are necessary to support themselves and their families.
Illegal immigrants working in the United States have the right to earn a fair wage for their work. Like American-born and naturalized citizens, illegal immigrants are entitled to the state-mandated minimum wage in the state they are working in.
Illegal immigrants should also be paid for overtime based on state calculations; earnings cannot be withheld because of a person’s immigration status.
The Right to Vote
Illegal immigrants in the United States do not have the right to vote. In fact, even citizens living in the United States with permanent visas do not have the right to vote until they become naturalized citizens.
As of 2013, some states within the U.S. are offering driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. These states tend to be border states with a high population of illegal immigrants, like California. Though other states with lower illegal immigrant populations are following along.
However, it should be noted that nobody has a right to a driver’s license. It is a privilege, and it can be revoked by the government.
Second Amendment Rights
The second amendment allows for a person the right to bear arms. However, this amendment only applies to United States citizens that were born here or were naturalized as permanent residents.
It is not legal for undocumented immigrants to own a gun in the United States. This very issue actually went to court at the end of 2012, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the right to bear arms is one reserved only for law abiding legal citizens.