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Your Protections Under the United States Constitution as a Non-citizen

While many people believe that the United States constitution only applies to U.S citizens, the use of the word person instead of citizen extends protections to all people for said right. For example, while the right to vote is only extended to U.S citizens, the protections under the 14th amendment that guarantee equal protections under the law are extended to all persons. The bill of rights itself does not include the word citizen anywhere, instead the terms “the rights of the people” are used.

In criminal court, undocoumented immigrants charged with criminal offenses have the same due process protections as everyone else and are entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge:

  • To be present at the hearing

  • To be represented by a lawyer

  • To put forth witnesses and defenses

  • Afforded interpretation for non-English speakers.

Finally, the fourteenth amendment guarantees that “…nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

One of the most famous supporting precedents of equal protection for undocumented immigrants is the case of Plyer vs. Doe, in which Texas tried to exclude non-citizens from attending elementary school. The court held that undocumented immigrants are people and therefore enjoy the same protections as everyone else under the 14th amendment. While the United States criminal justice system might not be the easiest to deal with for non-citizens, the most important thing to keep in mind when dealing with law enforcement is that we are all people and deserve to be treated as such- with dignity and respect.

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