Undocumented Debtors

44 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2012

Date Written: 2012


The recent recession has increased anti-immigrant sentiment and has inspired increasingly harsh measures directed at illegal immigrants, who are accused of taking jobs from authorized residents. For example, Arizona attracted national attention with its new law that makes it a state crime to be in the United States illegally and requires local law enforcement to arrest individuals suspected of being in the country illegally. Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, and South Carolina recently adopted similar measures. Additionally, some anti-immigrant activists have proposed new interpretations of the Constitution that would bar the American-born children of undocumented immigrants from citizenship. Undocumented immigrants are also disproportionately burdened by the economic slowdown, as jobs largely held by undocumented immigrants diminish in number. Undocumented immigrants face high unemployment rates in the wake of declines in construction and manufacturing. At the same time, Congress has considered some legislative proposals to help undocumented immigrants, none have been adopted. Bankruptcy is an important safety net for those in financial distress. Entering bankruptcy proceedings can stop harassing calls from creditors, wipe away medical debt, cancel credit card debt, forestall a foreclosure, or prevent lenders from suing borrowers personally when a foreclosed property is sold for less than what it is worth. Bankruptcy is also available, at least in theory, to undocumented immigrants. The Bankruptcy Code contains no requirement that the debtor prove lawful status. Yet, the legal literature has not addressed the availability of bankruptcy for undocumented debtors. Although bankruptcy may be a crucial tool for undocumented debtors in financial distress, these debtors face substantial barriers to bankruptcy filing. As this Article reports, few undocumented debtors seek or obtain bankruptcy relief.

Suggested Citation

Ondersma, Chrystin D., Undocumented Debtors (2012). University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, Vol. 45, No. 517, 2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2104285

Chrystin D. Ondersma (Contact Author)

Rutgers University School of Law ( email )

180 University Avenue
Newark, NJ 07102
United States

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