So right now in my home state of Iowa, an undocumented immigrant is on trial for murder charges. Apparently he wasn't read his rights when he was being investigated.

Whether that is true or not, does he have those same rights as a U.S. citizen?

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    If illegal immigrants didn't have the same rights as citizens it could imply that citizens themselves didn't have those rights since many of the legal action against immigrants is precisely about whether they're legitimate citizens or not. May 22, 2021 at 7:27
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    @ShmuelNewmark: No, it would mean that courts would have to extend those rights to all until citizenship/immigration status is established.
    – Ben Voigt
    May 23, 2021 at 4:11

3 Answers 3


Everyone physically present in the US is protected by the US Federal constitution. (In some cases persons not physically in the US also have protection from the US constitution. When that applies is too complex for this answer.) Most of the rights protected by that constitution are available to anyone present, whether citizen, lawful immigrant, lawful visitor, or a person in the US without lawful authority. A few rights, such as the right to vote and to run for public office, are limited to citizens.

If a person was arrested but not informed of his or her Miranda rights, then statements made to the arresting officers (or later interrogating officers) would not be admissible in court, unless an exception to the Miranda rules applies, which is unlikely. I can't say if this happened in the particular case mentioned in the question.

In general, in the area of criminal procedure, there is no difference between citizens and others subject to US jurisdiction (accredited foreign diplomats normally have immunity). A few crimes can only be committed by citizens (or others owing allegiance to the US) such as treason. A few crimes, such as unlawful entry to the US, can't be committed by citizens, as citizens automatically have a right to enter. But criminal procedure and constitutional rights affecting criminal procedure, are the same for all in the US, citizen or not. (Oh, there are special laws for minors, but that isn't a matter of citizenship.)

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    There are also crimes that can only be committed by foreigners, acts that are constitutional rights of Americans. E.g. Maria Butina. May 21, 2021 at 16:14
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    @Keith McClary There are, as I mentioned, but 18 U.S.C. §951 (which is what Butina was convicted of) is not one of them. A US citizen can be convicted of being an unregistered agent of a non-US government in the US. May 21, 2021 at 16:21
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    I would need to ask about the law first. If she was hanging out with the Sierra Club instead of the NRA, and her Russian government contact was a schoolteacher or a postman instead of a banker, could she still be convicted? May 22, 2021 at 4:00
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    @KeithMcClary Rudolph Giuliani is apparently under investigation for possible violations of 18 USC 951.
    – phoog
    May 23, 2021 at 4:51
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    @KeithMcClary a better example would be possession of firearms, which is a constitutional right for citizens (although subject to various conditions) yet illegal for certain categories of non-citizens.
    – Brian
    May 23, 2021 at 18:04

So right now in my home state of Iowa, an undocumented immigrant is on trial for murder charges. Apparently he wasn't read his rights when he was being investigated.

Whether that is true or not, does he have those same rights as a U.S. citizen?

Most rights are not particular to U.S. citizens and apply to all persons regardless of their immigration status. The rights that apply without regard to immigration status include the Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966) rights of someone arrested and interrogated on suspicion of having committed a crime.

One area of ongoing litigation in regard to Miranda with non-citizens is the extent to which inquiries regarding immigration status (which is often, but not always, a civil matter) may be made without giving Miranda warnings.

Indeed, an undocumented immigrant, in addition to having a right to an attorney and notice of his or her right to an attorney, under Miranda, also has a right under an international treaty to assistance from a diplomatic official from the non-citizen's country of citizenship (as described in this law review article) under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, a treaty ratified by the United States in 1969, although the U.S. has a poor track record of affording legal effect to this treaty right in practice despite contrary ruling from the International Court of Justice.

There are some rights, however, which are particular to U.S. citizens and are not shared by people who are not U.S. citizens. This includes, for example, the right to vote, and the right to enter the United States. The right to bear arms is likewise more restricted for non-citizens than it is for U.S. citizens, and non-citizens do not benefit from the right of U.S. citizens subject to some narrow exceptions, to not be discriminated against based upon state of primary residence. A short note from a law professor at the University of Arkansas Law School spells out in the case of a number of specific rights that do not depend upon citizenship.

For instance, here is a non-exhaustive list of some rights undocumented immigrants may enjoy stemming from the United States Constitution:

Right to jury trial;

Right to Miranda warning;

Right to defend against charges and deportation;

Right to counsel in criminal proceedings;

Right to protection from unlawful search and seizure;

Right to protection against self-incrimination;

Right to file civil lawsuits;

Right to payment for work performed;

Right to a healthy and safe work environment; and

Right to k-12 education.

In general, outside of immigration law, U.S. law does not distinguish at all between the rights of documented and undocumented people who are not U.S. citizens, notwithstanding arguments by conservative legal scholars which have not been accepted by the courts that there should be a distinction between these two categories of people under non-immigration laws.


For the most part, yes, and the other answers already elaborate on that better than I can.

I'll broaden the answer to your question from just the Miranda rights to other aspects of crime and punishment. There are a number of differences:

  • Non-citizens are entitled to have a consulate of their home country notified, and provide assistance. Some US states are notorious for ignoring this obligation based on treaties, though. Incidentally, dual US/non-US citizens do not have this right.

  • There are some crimes that citizens cannot commit in the first place.

  • A conviction even for minor issues has far more severe subsequent consequences for a non-citizen than for a citizen. For instance, a DUI for a US citizen may lead to a loss of driver's license and a few weeks in prison. For a non-citizen (even those who have lived in the US legally for decades), it may mean deportation, destruction of their family, loss of their home and livelihood and ending up penniless in a country they may not even be familiar with.

  • Non-citizens are often not eligible for bail or parole; they will usually have to serve out the full sentence in prison. Bail is usually denied based on the idea that they are an inherent flight risk, and parole is denied because they would be deported the day they are released, making supervision by a parole officer impossible.

  • Many police departments will hold non-citizens past their release date without a warrant (even though that practice has been ruled unconstitutional before).

  • DUI alone is not grounds for deportation from the US. But if a person is already liable to deportation, then having a DUI conviction can affect their ability to obtain "cancellation of removal".
    – Brian
    May 23, 2021 at 18:06
  • Unfortunately, that is not correct. DUI is considered a "crime of moral turpitude", and that often (not always) does make you deportable. A lot depends on the details, and also on the maximum sentence in your state. May 23, 2021 at 18:29
  • Sorry, let me be more precise. "Simple DUI" is not a crime of moral turpitude. By "simple DUI" I mean a criminal offense where the only elements of the offense are driving, and being under the influence of alcohol. There are "aggravated DUI" offenses that can be crimes of moral turpitude. Since the vast majority of all DUI cases are simple DUI, I think you should edit your answer. Currently, your answer implies that DUI is always a crime of moral turpitude. See justice.gov/sites/default/files/eoir/legacy/2014/07/25/3423.pdf
    – Brian
    May 23, 2021 at 18:57
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    @Brian You are right. I thought I had phrased it as a "may" but I didn't. It's fixed now. Thanks for pointing that out! May 24, 2021 at 6:52

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