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Your Legal Rights as a US Immigrant

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on September 10, 2015

As an immigrant to the United States, some of the rights outlined in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, as well as other laws, apply to you. Which ones will depend on the nature of your status in the United States. Your Chicago immigration attorney can help you understand your legal rights in more detail.

Constitutional Rights

All immigrants — regardless of status — have the many rights under the U.S. Constitution and its amendments. These include:

  • The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.
  • The Fifth Amendment bars double jeopardy, or trying an individual twice for the same alleged crime. It also says that individuals who have been charged with a crime do not have to testify against themselves. And the Fifth Amendment forbids the taking of private property for public use unless compensation is paid to its owner.

Additionally, if you are a naturalized U.S. citizen, you are afforded additional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. This amendment, which addresses a number of issues, bans states from passing laws that “abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States…deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; [or]deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Naturalized citizens also have the right to vote in elections.

Protections Against Discrimination

The federal government, state government and even local governments have passed a number of laws that address discrimination in the workplace and housing sectors. At the federal level, these laws typically bar discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex and disability. Immigrants who are legally working in the United States and those who are seeking housing — regardless of whether of work authorization status — are protected under these laws.

Local and state laws may extend these protections. Illinois, for example, makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of sexual orientation or gender expression. And the Chicago Fair Housing Ordinance prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, disability, age , sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, parental status, marital status, military discharge status and source of income.

In The Workplace

If you are an immigrant who can legally work in the United States, you have the right to workers compensation coverage (if your job qualifies you for it) and unemployment compensation. Undocumented workers do not have these rights because the qualifying requirements require that the employee be “able to work,” and undocumented immigrants are not legally able to work.

Immigrants who are legally working in the United States also have the right to unionize or join a union.

Immigrants rights can be complicated. A Chicago immigration attorney can help you better understand your legal rights as a documented or undocumented alien. For a free consultation, contact the immigration lawyers at The Shapiro Law Group at (847) 564-0712.