Immigration Laws for the United States

By Allison McCalman

Immigration Laws in the United States contain federally enforced policies regarding immigration. These policies ensure that non-citizens entering and living in the U.S would follow a proper legal process to gain entry into the U.S. and obtain legal residency and citizenship in the country.

History of U.S. Immigration Laws

Immigration policy in the United States was first instituted by Congress in 1790 with The Naturalization Act of 1790. In 1921 Congress passed the Emergency Immigration Act, which determined immigration quotas. The Immigration Act of 1924 put limits on the number of people migrating to the United States from each country to ensure that the number of immigrants was proportionate to the number of persons already residing in the United States. During the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt's Administration stopped immigration into the U.S. and this led to a reduction of migrants per country entering the U.S. In 1986 Congress enacted The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) to curb illegal immigration. The IRCA dictated immigration policy that tightened criminal laws against employers who hired illegal immigrants it also disallowed illegal aliens from receiving federal welfare benefits and led to the creation of an amnesty program. The Immigration Act of 1990 gave way to a complete overhaul of the Immigration and Naturalization Agency by allowing equality in allocating visas among foreign nations. This removed previous immigration policies that required quotas and opened the door for immigrants from all over the world to migrate to the United States with a legitimate visa.

Lawful Entry

U.S. Immigration Law offers two different paths for non-citizens to gain lawful entry into the country: permanent admission for immigrants and temporary admission for non-immigrants. When permanent admission is extended to aliens, it gives them the status of a lawful permanent resident (LPR). They are federally classified as immigrants and receive a Permanent Resident Card, which is also known as a Green Card. Lawful permanent residents are allowed to work in the United States and can eventually file an application with the U.S Citizen and Immigration Services to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. Temporary admission is the second path to legal entry into the U.S. for persons seeking to visit the country on a temporary basis. These persons are given visas that allow them entry into the country for a specific period of time. Persons such as tourists, international students, temporary workers, global business professionals or persons on a diplomatic mission are all classified as non-immigrants. The type of visa they are issued determines the amount of time they are legally allowed to stay in the country. Some non-immigrants may be allowed to work in the country for a specific time period and they are given a visa that permits entry for a limited time with the permission to work during that time. Non-immigrants cannot apply for citizenship through naturalization and must apply for permanent admission status if they want to remain in the country legally.

Unlawful Entry & Deportation

U.S. Immigration Law also deals with U.S. policy regarding the unlawful entry of unauthorized aliens into America. Persons who violate U.S. Immigration Laws by illegally entering the country can be removed through an official process that makes them subject to penalties that can include imprisonment, fines and permanent prohibition from future entry. They also have the option to leave voluntarily; resistance can be met with deportation. Deportation is the federal removal of an illegal alien from the country. Under current immigration law, the U.S. government can enforce deportation proceedings against illegal immigrants who have been charged with an aggravated felony during their stay in the United States. If federal officials have proof that an illegal alien gained entry in the country using false documents or through any other fraudulent method this is also grounds for deportation. Likewise. if a permanent resident is found guilty of an aggravated felony and used falsified documents to gain residency in the U.S. they are also subject to deportation by the U.S. government.

About the Author

Allison McCalman has been writing professionally since 2009. Her expertise is in business, media, intellectual property law and tourism. McCalman's work has appeared in various online publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in broadcast journalism.