U.S. immigrants are often unsure about their basic rights as immigrants in
the U.S. Questions like “Do immigrants have any rights?”, “If they
do, what are the rights of immigrants?” are often raised and discussed
by immigrants in various forums. For the benefit of our readers, we have compiled
some of the basic rights of immigrants residing in the U.S. and tips to effectively
enforce your immigrant rights when needed.
Rights of Immigrants in the U.S.
- Employment Related Rights of Immigrants:
- Regardless of your legal status, you have a right to receive at
least the minimum wage for full-time work. You are also entitled to over-time
wages when you work more than the stipulated hours.
- You have a right to be treated and paid fairly at your work-place.
You cannot be held in a job against your will, and you have a right to
keep your passport and other identification documents in your possession.
You may request help from unions, immigrant, labor rights and other groups
and report abuse without retaliation. You also have a right to seek
justice in U.S. courts.
- You are entitled to have your workplace free from hazards likely
to cause serious harm. Employers are required to remove hazardous materials
from the workplace and provide you safety equipment wherever necessary.
- Rights of Immigrants Against Unlawful Searches and Seizures:
Except in cases of emergencies, authorities are generally required
to get a warrant signed by a judge, before they can search your home.
You have a right to refuse entry into your home, without a valid warrant
signed by a judge. To enter an immigrant’s workplace, an officer
must have a valid search or arrest warrant, or must have the employer's
permission to enter the workplace.
- Rights of Immigrants Against Unlawful Arrest:
You have a right against being arrested unlawfully. A U.S. Immigration officer
may generally arrest you without a warrant only if he believes that you are
in the United States illegally and that you are likely to escape before a warrant
can be obtained for your arrest.
- Right of Immigrants to Remain Silent:
If you are ever stopped or questioned, and if either you do not have
your documents with you, or you are an undocumented alien, you have the right
to remain silent about your immigration status. This right to remain silent
may be exercised by you at any place when questioned by authorities, such
as in your home or in any public place.
- Rights of Immigrants to be Represented by an Attorney:
You have a right to talk to and be represented by an attorney.
- Rights of Immigrants to Refuse to Sign Any Document:
You have a right to refuse signing on any immigration document and to request
to speak to an attorney before signing such documents.
Tips for Enforcement of Immigrant Rights:
- You should carry proof of your immigration status at all times.
If you are a permanent resident, you are advised to carry your Green Card.
If you are a nonimmigrant alien, you may carry your I-94 card, a notation
in your passport, or any other document proving your immigration status in
- If an officer begins to question you, you may ask the officer whether
you are free to go. If the officer says yes, then you may leave. If the officer
says no, you have a right to remain silent.
- If you are arrested, you should remain silent and demand the right to
speak to an attorney. Always keep in mind that any information given by you without
consulting your attorney could endanger your case.
- Do not give the officer any reason to charge you with disorderly conduct
or obstruction of justice. Be polite while asserting your right to be silent.
- Do not sign any document without consulting your attorney . By signing
a document without consulting an attorney, you may be giving up some of your
- Always memorize and carry with you phone numbers of close family
members, and your attorney.
- If you are arrested or detained, you may ask to speak to someone
from the consulate of your country.
- Always keep more than one set of all your immigration papers fully
updated in safe custody.
U.S. immigrants must realize that even though their stay in the U.S. may be
temporary, they still have many of the basic rights that U.S. citizens have.
Immigrants must understand and exercise their basic rights to protect themselves.
While the above mentioned rights for immigrants are commonly enforceable, you
must obtain legal advice for your specific situation in cases of any violation
of your rights. As a foreign national residing in the U.S., if you believe
that your immigrant rights are being violated, you should contact your immigration
attorney immediately and seek help.
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The information in this article is not intended to be legal advice.
If you have questions specific to your case, we suggest that you consult with
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