What Rights Do Foreign Prisoners Have in U.S. Prisons?
Foreign prisoners mostly have the same rights as U.S. citizens in prisons. The major differences involve your legal right to stay in the United States. If you are not a citizen of the United States, the laws are different.
Do non-citizens have the same rights in prison as citizens do?
Mostly. In fact, nowhere in the Bill of Rights will you find the word “citizen.” It uses the term “person” or “people” to outline rights. Likewise, the Fourteenth Amendment calls for the equal protection of all people under the law. It does not say that only citizens are protected.
How are a non-citizen’s rights different from a citizen’s rights?
The major differences involve your legal right to stay in the United States. The government cannot strip American citizens of their citizenship. Likewise, they cannot remove an American citizen from the country. But if you are not a citizen, you have a privilege, not a right, to stay in the United States. And if you commit a serious enough crime, you could lose that privilege.
Due process is different for non-citizens. For the most part, you have the same rights to due process. However, the United States has an “expedited removal process.” Under this law, if you are caught within 100 miles of the border while you are in the United States illegally, you can be deported immediately in some circumstances. They do not need to give you a legal hearing before deportation.
Will going to prison affect your immigration status?
Most likely. Depending on your offense, your immigration status could be affected if you go to prison. There are several possible outcomes.
- Deportation. If your crime is considered serious, you may get deported. This could happen while you are in prison. But it is more likely that you will need to finish your prison sentence first. Then you will be deported.
- Non-renewal. Your crime may not get you deported, but it could mean you won’t get to renew your visa.
- Prohibition. Depending on your crime and your status, you may still be able to renew your visa. But if you want to pursue a higher status, such as applying for a green card or citizenship, you may get denied.
- Nothing. It is always possible that your crime does not affect your status.
What can foreign prisoners do if their rights are violated in prison?
Even as non-citizens, foreign prisoners can still assert their rights. Just like a citizen, you can sue the government for violating your rights. If state officials or a state agency violated your rights, you can file a Section 1983 lawsuit. But if it happened in federal custody, you may need to file a Bivens claim.
Foreign prisoners have many of the same rights as American citizens in prisons. The Bill of Rights does not separate citizens from non-citizens. However, non-citizens can be deported and, in some cases, have different due-process rights. A conviction that sends you to prison can affect your immigration status. If your rights are violated in custody, you can sue the government.