Dying is complicated and expensive. However, dying can become even more problematic when you don’t technically exist. For an undocumented immigrant, death is not only emotionally exhausting, but also legally dangerous. At Distinctive Life, we are interested in this very complex topic because of its affect on us as a Texas company and its deeply philosophical nature. It took hours of research, including several phone calls with immigration lawyers, to get even a basic understanding of who and what is legal and why.
So here we go… as it stands right now, here is what the law states:
Everyone, regardless of immigration status, has the right to call 911. Everyone, regardless of immigration status, has the right to be admitted to a hospital. If you are in danger, you are protected. Further, wills, regardless of immigration status, are legally binding. If you make a will, it will be honored in any court of law.
However, things get a little unclear when it comes to insurance and state documents.
Since the nature of being undocumented means that you lack a social security number or state-issued ID, illegal immigrants may have trouble obtaining funeral insurance and death certificates. This can make paying for certain services almost impossible. Without insurance, a family must fund the entire funeral process themselves, which can easily cost thousands of dollars. Further, in the state of Texas, funeral homes are not allowed to bury or cremate without a valid death certificate.
However, if an undocumented family has the means, there is one sure-fire way to circumvent the entire legal process. This option is to send your dying or deceased loved one back to their home country. A local funeral director can help arrange these travel plans and find a trusted foriegn funeral home. The main upside of this option is that burial in the other country is legal, and therefore much easier. However, the downside of this option is that international travel is very expensive and your loved one may be without family at the time of death.
All of this being said, if you are in the United States legally, but your deceased loved one is illegal, you have nothing to worry about. Obtaining their death certificate might still be a long, arduous process, but you are not in any danger of being deported since you are an American citizen.
We know that is guide is nowhere near complete, but we hope that bring some clarity to a really complex, but really fascinating, situation.
PS: If anyone has more information about this topic, please let us know! We would love to do a follow up blog with more information. Thanks!