The Constitution of the United States specifically states that all persons should be treated fairly under the law. It uses the language of “person” to describe those to whom the rights in the Constitution apply, and does not differentiate between U.S. citizen and illegal immigrant when it comes to the legal protections enjoyed by all. This means that illegal immigrants, although technically in violation of immigration laws, still enjoy the right to free speech, protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, the right against self incrimination, and certain other rights.
There are some rights that are not granted to illegal immigrants, like the right to vote and the right to possess a firearm, but these rights have not just been withheld from illegal immigrants, they are even withheld from U.S. citizens who are convicted felons. So, although they do not technically enjoy all rights granted under the Constitution, the Constitution ensures that anyone within the borders of the United States be granted fair and equal protection under the law against the loss of life, liberty, or property without due process.
While illegal immigrants enjoy a right to due process under the law, many are surprised to learn that illegal immigrants do not enjoy the right to legal counsel in immigration removal hearings (deportation hearings). This is because the Supreme Court has held that removal hearings are administrative hearings, not criminal trials, and, therefore, do not rise to a level that would require court appointed counsel. If an illegal immigrant is ever arrested for a criminal offense, then that person may still invoke his or her right to counsel and be provided counsel at no cost. In immigration hearings, the immigrant is free to secure his or her own legal counsel, but does not get the right to have counsel provided at the government’s expense.
Although the right to represent oneself exists, it is rarely advised that the right be exercised. Anyone, whether citizen or illegal immigrant, who ever has to face criminal, civil, or immigration court, should hire an attorney to handle representation. Ensuring that competent legal counsel is handling a case is the best way for people to make sure that their rights remain protected and that they have all the information they need to make the best and most informed decisions regarding their defense.
Very Specific Rights and Privileges
Illegal immigrants who are curious about the rest of the rights that they are or are not entitled to should contact experienced immigration counsel, because even illegal immigrants have the right to ask questions about the law from those who presumably know it best. In many cases, simply explaining one’s case to an attorney can reveal a variety of legal options that the illegal immigrant may not have known existed. If they are worried about showing up in an attorney’s office and declaring their legal status, most immigration attorneys will offer general advice by phone or email. If the question is a quick one, then many immigration attorneys will even offer their general advice at no charge.