In this day and age, it can feel as though an immigrant, in particular an undocumented immigrant, has no rights at all in the United States. This is simply not true — and many times, those who may seek to infringe upon rights count on immigrants not being aware of them. If you are in the country without inspection, knowing what you can and cannot do can make a difference in how quickly you can respond to a serious situation.
Education and Public Benefits
Children in the United States are entitled to a free public education up to grade 12, regardless of their immigration status, as confirmed in the Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe (1982). This means that schools cannot restrict any child from attending primary or secondary school as long as they are under age 21 — this extends to requiring immigration information from parents, as well. In other words, a school district may not require any kind of identifying information that marks someone as a citizen or non-citizen, because to do so might have the effect of undocumented children being kept out of school.
Be advised that normally, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) mandates that school officials not turn over any student’s information to immigration officials. However, in recent weeks, the Education Secretary has insinuated her belief that the choice of whether or not to call immigration on students should be left to school officials. Currently this is unlawful under both FERPA and the Plyler decision; however, this may be an issue that the current Department of Education may further pursue.
On the Job
Once school has concluded, undocumented immigrants generally seek gainful employment, contrary to propaganda that paints the community as somehow lazy. As of right now, approximately 1 in 6 workers in the state of Illinois is an immigrant (approximately 18 percent of the labor force), with a significant portion of those being undocumented. When the undocumented work, however, they are often subject to mistreatment and threats by employers, who believe they have no rights to things like minimum wage, back pay or overtime pay.
As of this writing, all of the protections outlined in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act have been held to apply to undocumented workers, as well as the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act’s requirements that all wages due to workers who fall under that law be paid promptly. If they are not, or if other rights are infringed, the undocumented worker or workers have standing to bring suit to seek compensation. It is also important to know that one’s undocumented status cannot be raised as some kind of defense by the employer in order to avoid payment.
Call an Experienced Immigration Attorney
Being undocumented puts a person at a disadvantage in many areas of life, but it does not mean that they do not have rights. If you are experiencing problems where you believe your rights are being infringed, contacting an attorney is an important step that can help level the proverbial playing field. The dedicated Chicago immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can help ensure that you are as protected as possible and that you are granted the rights you are entitled to, as any other human being would be. Call us today to set up a free consultation.
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