An immigration agency is a specific organization authorized by the government to perform various tasks and duties related to immigration law. Unlike other areas of law, much of the legal work done in immigration law is performed by agencies rather than by a court. This is because immigration concerns often tie in with broader, more far-reaching issues such as national security.
What Are Some of the Immigration Agencies?
In the past, the main immigration agency was the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS). The INS was discontinued in 2003, and newer agencies have come into existence since then. Some of these include:
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): Handles mostly visa and passport documentation, as well as citizenship applications
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP): These handles mostly security issues at the border ports of entry, including passage of illegal items and illegal entry into the country
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): Functions much like a “police” branch, enforcing security and other concerns with regards to immigration, especially removal/deportation
- Dept. of State: Not solely an immigration agency, but heavily involved in the passage of many immigration laws and with overall immigration policies
The USCIS, CBP, and ICE are collectively grouped together under the larger Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The arrangement and interaction of these immigration agencies has increased largely due to security concerns after 9/11.
How Can a Lawyer Help When Dealing with an Immigration Agency?
The tasks performed by an immigration agency can be very broad and may involve a number of complicated issues, some of them requiring the assistance of a lawyer. A lawyer can help you or a loved one if an immigration agency is requesting any of the following from you:
- Background criminal check
- Employment records
- Explaining legal concepts
Also, immigration agencies can sometimes conduct hearings before a panel or a board, or before a selected immigration judge. In such cases, it may be necessary to hire a lawyer for representation during the hearings. This is common during removal hearings, or during citizenship reviews.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Immigration Agency Issues?
If you or a loved one is facing any immigration matters, you may wish to consult directly with a qualified immigration lawyer in your area. Your attorney can provide you with the latest information on immigration laws, policies, and agency enforcement. Also, if you need legal representation, an attorney can represent you during formal proceedings.