If you find yourself in the U.S. “without papers,” meaning that you do not have a legal right to be here but are anyway, because you crossed the border or overstayed your visa, etc., you may wonder whether you have rights and what this area is.

Many people may assume that because a person is undocumented, they have no rights. However, that is not true in the United States. As one of the most developed nations in the world, we have contingencies in place to deal with this issue.

Now, you probably read the news and watch TV, so you know that immigration laws change and vary depending on the executive branch and Congress. However, certain principles do not vary all that much, and there are some rights that apply to everyone and never change.

For example, the right to free speech. We will dive into that in a minute, but first, let’s look at what other rights undocumented people have.

Right to humane treatment

We should treat undocumented individuals with dignity and respect. This means they should never be subject to any form of abuse, harassment or discrimination based on their immigration status.

Right to emergency medical care

Every person in the U.S., regardless of their immigration status, may receive medical treatment, regardless of their ability to pay or their immigration status. Hospitals know this and typically comply with these laws without issue.

A right to emergency medical care is not the same as long-term preventative care. It is important to note this. If you are undocumented, reach out to your attorney for information on medical care facilities that provide ongoing medical services.

Right to education

Believe it or not, undocumented immigrants have the right to education. Children can attend public schools from kindergarten to 12th grade, regardless of their immigration status.

Right to report crimes

Undocumented immigrants may report crimes to law enforcement and most certainly should. They should not be afraid of being detained or deported. Speak with your attorney before you go to a police station and speak with the police.

Undocumented immigrants enjoy additional rights, such as the right to due process, which guarantees fair treatment under the law, and the right to freedom of speech, which is a fundamental right America is renowned for and respected for. Last, undocumented individuals may seek help from government agencies, non-profit organizations, and advocacy groups.

There are many, many resources available for people who are in the U.S. without legal status. Speak with an attorney to decide what the best course of action is for you if you want to move forward with changing your legal status.