Immigration Law Basic Background

Immigration Law is highly complex. It certainly appears that way to me. That said, I can offer a few insights based on my training and experience. This background will be important because future posts may refer to this information without explanation. The following framework seems consistent with general principles of administrative law.

Successful immigration practice requires knowledge and mastery of various legal sources. These sources include statutes, regulations, decisions by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), federal cases, and policy guidance from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Congress enacted The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) in 1952, and it is the basic body of immigration law. This statute stands alone, and it also may be found in Title 8 of the United States Code (USC).

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) contains rules developed by regulatory agencies. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is primarily, though not exclusively, charged with enforcing the nation's immigration laws. Therefore, DHS is primarily, if not exclusively, responsible for promulgating these regulations. Immigration regulations are in Title 8 of the CFR.

BIA is part of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), a federal agency within the Department of Justice. BIA is an appellate review panel within EOIR. Thus, BIA decides appellate administrative issues. These decisions apply on a national scale to DHS Bureaus responsible for enforcing immigration laws. In general, these decisions are binding on all DHS officers and Immigration Judges. They are not binding, however, if the decision has been modified or overruled by the Attorney General or a Federal Court.

Federal case law provides a source of law for immigration practice.

Finally, USCIS provides policy guidance for immigration issues.

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