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Immigration Law Research Guide

Scope & Introduction

This guide highlights information on primary and secondary sources related to research on the topic of U.S. Immigration Law.  Immigration Law research can be confusing, as it is involves a study of a vast patchwork of statutes, regulations, case law, administrative rulings and international law.  This guide is intended to provide the researcher with starting points for this type of research.  Due to the complexity of research in this area of law, it is recommended that you begin your research in a relevant secondary source.

The regulation of immigration into the United States is within the power of Congress. Congress exercises this power by enacting laws to govern immigration and by designating Federal agencies under the Executive Branch to enforce the statutes. Although this power of Congress is not specifically enumerated in the Constitution, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the authority and power after Congress asserted it by enacting laws that controlled and regulated immigration.  See Head Money Cases,112 U.S. 580 (1884); The Chinese Exclusion Case, 130 U.S. 581 (1889).

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides the foundation for U.S. immigration law; it was passed in 1952 and has been amended many times since.  The attacks of September 11th dramatically changed the landscape and enforcement of U.S. immigration law.  Congress enacted the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which dissolved the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and created in its place the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), under which operate various sub-agencies, including the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, among others.  Other agencies play important roles in U.S. immigration law and enforcement, including the Department of State, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Justice, under which operates the Executive Office for Immigration Review and the Board of Immigration Appeals.

This guide was created by Bianca Anderson. Last updated 09/2020.

Inspection Room at Ellis Island, New York, N.Y.

Image Source: Detroit Publishing Co, P. Inspection room, Ellis Island, New York, N.Y. New York  New York State New York. United States, None. [Between 1900 and 1915] [Photograph],

Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2016815980/.