U.S. Immigration Law
What is immigration law? Federal immigration law determines whether a person can come visit our country and/or become a permanent resident or citizen.
Congress has plenary (complete) authority over immigration. Likewise, Presidential powers are limited to refugee policies, and courts have found immigration to generally be non-justiciable, save aliens’ constitutional rights. States have limited legislative authority when it comes to immigration.
Modern Immigration Law
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was formed on November 25, 2002. It is a cabinet department of the United States government, and was created in response to the September 11 attacks. The DHS absorbed what was previously known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and in doing this, created three new components to carry out immigration services:
- U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement (CBE)
o Primarily responsible for keeping terrorists and weapons out of the U.S. It also facilitates trade and travel, while enforcing other administrative regulations.
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
o Responsible for enforcing immigration and customs laws.
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
o Responsible for providing immigration-related services and benefits such as naturalization and work authorizations.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), passed in 1952, provides most of the foundation for immigration law.
Immigration Law Issues
If you are interested in living or staying in the United States, then you must submit an application to one or more of the U.S. agencies responsible for carrying out immigration laws. Some types of permits are:
- Permanent Resident (Green Card)
o Green card holders can live and work in the United States and travel in and out, without encountering many restrictions.
o However, green card holders cannot vote and can be deported if they “abuse their status” or break U.S. laws.
- Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Visa
o People who want to come to the United States for a limited time need nonimmigrant visas. These are usually students who are studying, visiting tourists, and temporary workers.
o Exception – A visa is not necessary for short-term visitors from one of the visa waiver program countries. Visitors can stay in the United States for up to 90 days.
Many people can be kept out of the United States, and some of these include:
- People with communicable diseases like tuberculosis
- Drug abusers or addicts
- Drug traffickers
- People with convictions for crimes involving moral turpitude
- People who have previously violated immigration laws
- People likely to become dependent on need-based government assistance.
If you have immigration questions, your best bet for getting any professional help with your immigration situation is to seek out an experienced immigration lawyer. There are other important things to consider, such as deportation, the official removal of an individual from the United States. Immigration issues can affect you and your family, work, and finances, so it’s best to get the help that you need.