Immigration laws in the United States function as regulations and requirements for those individuals who wish to enter the country, whether permanently or for a short time. These laws provide guidelines for the duties and obligations a person undertakes when they enter and reside in the United States. These include the procedural laws and requirements that must be met for an individual who wishes to enter into and stay in the U.S. for any length of time.
Immigration laws are those laws that regulate how an individual residing in a country other than the United States can qualify for a visa and under what circumstances someone may be deported. Different kinds of temporary and permanent visas are available, depending on what an individual’s purpose is for entering and/or staying in the United States.
Individuals that already reside in the United States must abide by immigration laws. Many who legally reside in the U.S. have a permanent visa, or green card. A large number of people who hold green cards seek to become citizens. If they wish to remain and/or become citizens, they must refrain from engaging in any activities that would cause them to be removed or deported.
Immigration law is a complex area of law and may be difficult to navigate, especially without legal representation. It is very important to consult with an attorney concerning any immigration issues.
What are Some Immigration Law Issues and Disputes?
Immigration law issues and disputes can include any issues such as immigration violations. An immigration violation is a violation of the immigration law and policies that are enforced in the United States. It usually refers to situations where an individual who enters the U.S. illegally, but it can also be used to refer to other violations.
Some common violations in Texas and the rest of the United States include when someone:
- Illegally enters the United States;
- Overstays their visa privileges;
- Improperly and/or illegally re-enters the U.S. after deportation or removal;
- Exercises fraudulent intent when submitting an immigration application;
- Engages in a sham marriage for the purpose of obtaining a green card;
- Commits a violation related to citizenship and/or naturalization applications; and/or
- Hires illegal immigrants as employees.
These violations mostly include willful violations. It is very important, however, to note that accidental violations can lead to negative consequences. It is extremely important to be aware of any requirements and/or guidelines, including:
- Any visa requirements and/or deadlines;
- Applicable entry instructions; and/or
- Any other types of immigration guidelines that apply.
What are Some Important Immigration Documents?
The majority of immigration laws involve documents associated with someone’s immigration status. Immigration documents may be used to provide proof of immigration status, for example, a residency card. Immigration documents may also sometimes be necessary for support or evidence in an immigration application.
Immigration documents can include a(n):
- U.S. Passport, required for international travel;
- U.S. Visa;
- U.S. Conditional Residency Card;
- U.S Permanent Resident Card, or green card;
- U.S. Taxpayer Identification Number, known as Tax ID;
- U.S. Social Security Card, required for employment in the U.S.;
- Arrival and Departure Record, called Form I-94; and/or
- Re-entry Permit, which allows a non-citizen to leave and/or re-enter the U.S.
All documents associated with immigration laws are important. These documents should be completed as accurately as possible. They should be submitted within the required deadlines. Any instructions and/or requirements regarding when an individual should keep those documents with them, either the original or a copy, should be strictly followed.
How Do I Submit an Immigration Application?
An immigration application usually refers to the application for permanent residency, such as an application for a green card. It can, however, refer to other types of immigration issues, including non-immigration visas. Immigration applications include all paperwork and documentation necessary to complete the immigration process.
The requirements for immigration applications are different depending on which type of visa or document an individual is seeking. If an applicant fails to provide any required or requested documents, their chances of obtaining a visa document may be negatively affected. In most cases, an immigration application requires certain documents, which may include:
- A person’s birth certificate;
- A person’s medical records;
- A person’s photo ID;
- Proof of the person’s clean criminal record;
- A record the person’s of previous residences;
- A person’s bank account statements;
- A person’s employment records; and/or
- Any other documents that are required by that specific application.
What Do Immigration Enforcement Agents Do?
Immigration law authorities in the United States are tasked with enforcing immigration laws. The main federal agency that enforces immigration laws is U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The Patriot Act passed, after the events of September 11, 2001, enacted the formation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Department of Homeland Security is made of three agencies:
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS);
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); and
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
ICE is known as the enforcement arm of the DHS. ICE is considered the immigration police. This department investigates crimes including:
- Drug smuggling
- Human trafficking;
- Passport fraud; and/or
- Many other crimes.
Law enforcement in state and local jurisdictions may interact with ICE to determine an individual’s immigration status. Local law enforcement may be permitted to detain individuals for federal custody if it is determined they are in the United States illegally. These interactions will vary by state, so it is important to consult with a local immigration attorney should any issues arise.
Does Texas have Any Special Immigration Laws and Concerns?
Immigration law is regulated by the federal government through the legislative principle of preemption, which prevents individual states from passing their own immigration laws. This prevents inconsistent laws from being passed. Although they cannot pass their own laws, states are permitted to pass laws regulating which services and benefits are available to illegal immigrants.
In Texas, the 287(g) Program created a partnership between state and local law enforcement and ICE to identify and remove aliens. In Carrollton, Farmers Branch, and Harris Counties, local law enforcement cooperates with federal authorities to enforce federal immigration laws.
Also in Texas, through Secure Communities, a federal program, the fingerprints of all individuals who are arrested are taken and put into a federal database which checks both their criminal records and immigration statuses. There are a number of cities who have refused to comply with this program, so enforcement will vary across the state.
E-Verify is also used in Texas for employment applications, state agency and public college applications. The E-Verify system is maintained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA). This system maintains a database of valid Social Security numbers and the individuals to whom they belong as well as a photo-matching feature, used when individuals present a passport, a Permanent Resident Card, or green card, and/or an Employment Authorization Document.
Participation in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in Texas is restricted to United States citizens and legal residents. Illegal immigrants are prohibited under federal law from receiving the majority of public benefits. They are, however, eligible to receive emergency permitted to receive programs deemed necessary to protect life and safety, including:
- Emergency services;
- Health care;
- Police protection;
- Public schools; and/or
- Other services and benefits.
Do I Need to Hire a Texas Immigration Law Attorney?
Yes, it is important to hire an experienced immigration attorney in Texas for any immigration related issues you may have. As previously noted, immigration laws are extremely complex and may require interaction with several different governmental agencies. Additionally, it is absolutely necessary to fill out all required and/or requested documentation.
An immigration attorney can assist you with filling out any application documentation as well as assist you in reviewing and submitting any documents to the appropriate agency. A lawyer can also represent you during any court proceedings and/or application appeals, if needed.