Undocumented immigrants are sometimes called illegal aliens. If you either remain in the U.S. beyond the limits of your authorized period of stay, or if you entered the U.S. without permission, you are an undocumented immigrant or an illegal alien. You can be placed in removal proceedings and possibly deported if you are detained by immigration authorities or arrested by the police.
However, just because you are in the country illegally, this does not mean you do not have any rights. You do have certain rights under the U.S. Constitution, particularly the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. For instance, if someone sues you, you have the right to receive notice and defend yourself. You also have the right to file a lawsuit if you are injured. Your property cannot be searched or seized without probable cause.
Even though employers are not supposed to hire workers who are undocumented, if you do get hired, you have certain rights. If you are injured on the job, you may be able to collect worker’s compensation benefits. You have the right to organize or join a union to obtain better working conditions, and you cannot be unlawfully discriminated against in the workplace. If you are fired, though, you cannot collect unemployment, because you are not technically “able” or authorized to work in the U.S.
You also have the right to defend yourself against deportation or removal from the U.S. and you are entitled to a hearing before being sent to your country of origin.
Legal Editors: BoBi Ahn and Wendy Yevoli, May/June 2015 (updated February 2018)
Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.