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Immigration Enforcement Laws

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What is Immigration Enforcement?

Immigration enforcement is the general process by which government authorities and agents enforce immigration laws and policies.  This is a broad category of law that often overlaps with other areas of law, especially criminal law and family law. 

Immigration laws often change quite frequently according to the immigration patterns that occur from year to year.  For example, immigration from one particular country might be very heavy one year, and then very light the following year.  As such, immigration enforcement laws are constantly evolving to meet the needs of each country and each individual U.S. state.

Who Handles Immigration Enforcement Matters?

Immigration enforcement matters are generally handled by a specific government entity called the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or “ICE” for short.  This agency has responsibility for broad security issues like border patrol, illegal entry in the U.S., removal/deportation, and other matters.  ICE also has several branches that handle specific tasks. 

There are also several programs that have been instituted by and for the ICE to address specific immigration problems.  ICE was created in 2002 in response to Homeland Security needs following 9/11. 

What are Some Common Immigration Enforcement Issues?

Common immigration enforcement issues include:

  • Proper Entry into the U.S.
  • Removal
  • Border Control
  • Customs checks at airports and other passageways
  • Trade issues such as human trafficking or drug smuggling
  • Detention of aliens suspected of crimes
  • Employment programs and abuse of employment mechanisms

Many other sub-programs exist, like Community Shield, which aims to identify alien gang members.  There are also subdivisions of the ICE which address specific issues like cyber crimes and child exploitation. 

Is Immigration Enforcement the Same Across the U.S.?

No- different states may enforce drastically different enforcement policies than in other states.  For example, border states like Arizona and Texas may have stricter policies when it comes to immigration, removal, and crimes committed by non-citizens.  Likewise, states with high immigrant populations may be subject to more monitoring by ICE agents than other states.  Finally, states may have different policies with respect to issues like removal or employment arrangements.

What if I Have a Legal Issue With Immigration Enforcement?

Most legal issues with ICE are reviewed before any immigration board or before an immigration judge.  This is similar to a criminal court hearing, wherein the court analyzes the various legal issues that the non-citizen may be involved in.  Depending on the legal issues involved, immigration hearings can sometimes be appealed or retried. 

On the other hand, some actions may lead to immediate removal of the person from the country.  Some ICE programs allow for a court to make a decision to remove a criminal suspect from the country if they are found guilty of a serious crime. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance With Immigration Enforcement Issues?

Immigration enforcement issues can involve very weighty legal matters.  In some instances, it can lead to removal or a bar on entry in the future.  If you’re facing any immigration enforcement matters, you should contact an immigration lawyer immediately.  Your attorney can help discuss how the present immigration laws and policies may be affecting you, and can suggest possible options for you.  Also, an immigration attorney can help explain any laws that aren’t clear to you.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 09-21-2012 04:38 PM PDT

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