Street Law: A Course in Practical Law

Chapter 45: Immigration Law

Chapter Overviews

Policy toward people immigrating to the United States has changed many times throughout the country’s history. At some times immigrants have been welcomed, while at other times immigrants have been met with resentment, anger, and even violence. In 2006, more than 34 million people living in the United States were born in other countries. A majority of these people are in the country legally.

Citizenship While most people acquire citizenship by birth, it can also be acquired through naturalization. This is a process by which people born in other countries can apply for U.S. citizenship.

Coming to America Visitors from most countries must have a visa in order to enter the United Sates. Those wishing to stay in the country must obtain an immigrant visa, and the number of immigrant visas granted is limited. People in the country without permission are known as undocumented immigrants, and it is illegal for U.S. employers to hire them.

The Process for Removal of Noncitizens A person in the United States without permission may be arrested by a member of the border patrol, a police officer, or an agent of the Department of Homeland Security. Special immigration courts across the country handle what are called removal cases. Immigration judges decide whether or not the person must leave the country.

Persons Seeking Humanitarian Protection in the United States A person with a well-founded fear of persecution in his or her home country may be able to enter and remain in the United States by being granted asylum. People seeking asylum apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCSIS). Asylum may also be used as a defense in a removal case.

Immigration Law and Policy Government policy toward immigrants, particularly those in the United States illegally, is very controversial. Some people favor a path to citizenship for immigrants, while others believe that the borders must be more carefully controlled. While immigration law has traditionally been handled by the federal government, frustration with what some view as inaction in this area has led some state and local governments to legislate in this area.

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