Immigrant Survivors’ Rights and Resources
There are certain protections and rights that almost everyone in the US has, regardless of their immigration status. All persons, including immigrant survivors of violence can:
- Seek emergency medical care at publicly funded hospitals
- Seek police assistance
- Have the aggressor(s) criminally prosecuted
- Obtain community-based services necessary to protect life and safety
- Obtain orders of protection
- Access shelter and domestic violence services
- Obtain child custody and support
- Obtain public benefits for their US citizen children
Undocumented individuals also have Constitutional rights, including:
- 4th Amendment rights - protections against unlawful search and seizures. If immigration law enforcement (Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE) comes to an individual’s door, they have the right to ask for a warrant.
- 5th Amendment rights, e.g. the right to remain silent.
- 14th Amendment rights
- Undocumented children have the right to education
- Due process – a legal obligation of the federal government and all states to operate within the law and provide fair procedures.
The Immigrant Legal Resource Center developed palm cards listing some of these important protections, available here.
Immigrant workers are protected from abuse (including sexual violence) and exploitation, which can be relevant to immigrant survivors who are also experiencing workplace violence and/or human trafficking. For information about the rights of immigrant workers, including undocumented immigrant workers, see:
· National Employment Law Project (search “immigrant” for resources including From anti-immigrant to pro-worker: What states and cities can do about immigration and workers’ rights)
· “Remedies available to undocumented workers under federal employment discrimination laws” by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
See also “Workplace Violence” for resources to help advocates explore these subjects during intake with survivors of sexual/domestic violence.
In addition, different parts of the Civil Rights Act have been explicitly upheld as applicable to all immigrants (including those who are undocumented) so that they may exercise these basic protections. This section of the Toolkit provides a brief overview of some of the immigrant-specific implications of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to help you advocate – at individual and systems levels – for safety and justice for immigrant survivors of sexual and domestic violence:
· Anti-discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin
· Language access rights
 These rights and protections generally do not apply to persons in prison or only to very limited extent; for example, persons in prison cannot freely access many community-based services, however, a number of sexual/domestic violence programs across the country are working to provide some services, such as accompaniment during forensic exams and 24-hour crisis intervention via telephone and mail, to survivors in detention (see, for example, Hope behind bars: An advocate’s guide to helping survivors of sexual abuse in detention). It is important to note that although all individuals retain certain Constitutionally-protected rights even when incarcerated (e.g., adequate medical and mental health care and access to courts and counsel), correctional systems frequently attempt to deny or restrict these rights (see, for example, The need for prison oversight by Just Detention International (Feb 2009) or the work of the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union).
 Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982)