A Boutique Law Firm Fighting For Everyday People

Constitutional rights of non-citizens

On Behalf of | Aug 11, 2021 | Criminal Defense, Crimmigration, Immigration And Naturalization

If you are not a citizen of the United States, you may believe that the U.S. Constitution does not apply to you. Perhaps you have heard people who are citizens tell you so.

The truth is a bit more complex. In matters specifically related to immigration, the law applies differently. However, if you are a non-citizen accused of committing a crime in the United States, the same constitutional protections that citizens enjoy also apply to you.

Criminal offenses

The Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the United States Constitution protect against unreasonable searches and seizures, e.g., arrests, and self-incrimination. They require that every person accused of a criminal offense has the right to due process and a jury trial. If you are a noncitizen accused of a crime, multiple Supreme Court decisions have affirmed that these same rights apply to you.

Refugee status

In 1980, the U.S. Congress passed a law called the Refugee Act with defined a refugee as a person with legitimate fears of persecution in his or her home country. According to Forbes, even though the law applies differently in immigration matters, as a refugee, you have a right to have your case heard at the very least as part of due process before the government can send you back to your home country.

If you arrive at a port of entry, such as an airport, without the necessary legal authorization to enter the country, officials can bar your entry as you are not technically within the boundaries of the United States yet. However, once you are within the boundaries of the United States, you have constitutional rights in criminal matters. Some legal rights, such as habeas corpus, even apply before you set foot in the country, which means that the government cannot detain you indefinitely.