Legal Assistance

Undocumented workers in California have legal rights. Listed below is legal information on issues related to deportation, removal, detention, domestic violence, and employment petitions.

Legal Help with Deportation, Removal, and Detention Removal, and Detention

If you are an immigrant and are arrested or detained by immigration authorities it is vital that you are aware of your rights and do not sign any documents until you speak to a lawyer.

What to do?

  • Stay calm and remember you have the right to remain silent.
  • Write down the name and telephone number of the deportation officer assigned to your case.
  • Acquire a lawyer and disclose all information to them, including former arrests.

Do not take “voluntary departure” or sign a “stipulated order of removal” without speaking to your lawyer first. Signing any of the former documents can result in permanent removal from the United States.

Will the government provide me with a lawyer?

If you are not a U.S. citizen the government will not provide you with a lawyer. You have the right to contact your country’s consulate and they may help you obtain a lawyer. Numerous U.S. organizations and non-profits offer legal advice to documented and undocumented immigrants for free or at minimal costs (see chart at right).

What if I am deported?

If you are deported it is important to understand the amount of time before you can return to the country, if at all. If you violate terms you may be prosecuted for committing a more serious crime.

Legal Help with Domestic Violence

If you are an abused spouse, parent, or child you may be eligible to file an immigrant visa petition under the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

What is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)?

The VAWA provides spouses, parents, and children of U.S. citizens or permanent residents, such as Green Card holders, the opportunity to file citizenship on their own without the abuser’s knowledge. Men and women are both eligible.

What are the Qualifications for VAWA?

  • Your spouse or ex-spouse must be a United States citizen or must have a green card (that is, be a lawful permanent resident).
  • Your spouse must have abused you or your child during the marriage. Abuse may be physical, financial, or emotional.

Who can I contact for further assistance regarding domestic violence?

For additional information about shelters, mental health care programs, legal advice, and immigration assistance you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-7233 or 1 (800) 787-3224.

Legal Assistance with Employment Petitions

Under California law, undocumented workers are able to sue their employers, even if false papers were used to obtain the job. Employees facing work abuse should seek legal assistance or contact a worker center for further guidance.

Wage Claims

An employer is not allowed to refuse to pay an undocumented worker by claiming that individual should not have been working in the first place. If an incident such as this occurs, then the worker may file a wage claim through the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement or may sue the employer in court.

Workers Compensation Claims

As an undocumented worker you can receive worker’s compensation benefits. All workers who are injured on the job are eligible for worker’s compensation benefits in California to cover the cost of medical treatment and, in some cases, lost wages. However, undocumented workers may not be eligible for all benefits, such as retraining. For further information contact a legal consulting clinic listed at right.

Legal Assistance Info