Are Illegal Immigrants Protected by the Constitution?

Courts have extended protections to non-citizens under specific Constitutional Amendments.
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Non-U.S. citizens have received legal protection under the U.S. Constitution in court cases. Though the Constitution itself does not expressly protect people who are not citizens, courts have extended Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendment protections to non-citizens in the United States. Courts have argued that specific references to "persons" covers non-citizens as well as U.S. citizens.

1 The Constitution

The U.S. Constitution has been amended and interpreted multiple times throughout its existence to keep pace with an ever changing demographic landscape. With immigration being a prominent political and social issue, the courts have had to make judgment calls on cases involving non-citizens.

2 The Fourth Amendment

Many news reports have highlighted violations of illegal immigrants' Fourth Amendment rights by police officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. In many of these scenarios, illegal immigrants have been stopped, searched and arrested because they fit a particular ethnic profile. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center issues "Red Cards" to California immigrants who may be targets of what it views as unlawful raids. These cards detail the rights immigrants may exercise. According to the IRLC, The Fourth Amendment states "all people" and not just citizens are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures.

3 The Fifth Amendment

The Fifth Amendment ensures that no person faces a capital crime without the selection of a grand jury and that no person is forced to serve as a witness against himself in any criminal case. Once cleared of a crime, no person should be subjected to multiple trials for the same alleged offense. According to an analysis of Supreme Court cases published by the Congressional Research Service, non-citizens within the United States are protected by the Fifth Amendment's "due process" clause.

4 The 14th Amendment

The 14th Amendment provides requires all states to provide any person within their jurisdiction with fair procedures for any matter which relates to the law. The 14th Amendment also contains an equal protection clause designed to protect civil rights. In the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Plyler v. Doe, a Texas law that denied free public school education to children who were not "legally admitted" into the United States was found to be unconstitutional, in violation of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.

Oneil Williams started writing professionally in 1993. He wrote for "The Sunday Gleaner" and the "Jamaica Observer," two newspaper publications in Jamaica, and immigrated to the United States in 1995. Williams holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in communication from the University of Central Florida.