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United States Immigration Law: Federal Goverment Resources

Immigration Related Federal Agencies

Prior to March 1, 2003, enforcement of United States Immigration Law was performed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). On November 25, 2002, President Bush signed into law the Homeland Security Act of 2002. This law created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Within the DHS, the Bureaus of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Border and Transportation Security Directorate (BTS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) were also created.

For more information, about the restructuring of the INS into the DHS and its related Bureaus, please refer to USCIS's history.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS): The DHS was established to reorganize and unify various departments into one governmental institution for the vast national network of organizations and institutions for the purpose of providing security to the United States.

Along with the newly formed DHS, the following bureaus and agencies were created:  

    a. Bureau of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This Bureau is also known as the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) and Citizen and Immigration Services (CIS): The USCIS has taken over many functions that were performed under the abolished INS. The USCIS is responsible for the administration of immigration and naturalization adjudications and establishing immigration services policies and priorities. The USCIS website mentions several immigration related functions including: 

  1. Adjudication of immigrant visa petitions;
  2. Adjudication of naturalization petitions;
  3.  Adjudication of asylum and refugee applications;
  4.  Adjudications performed at the service centers, and
  5. All other adjudications performed by the INS. 

    b. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE): BICE supports the government’s aim of providing security to the nation’s interior enforcement, along with air, land and sea borders. In regard to interior enforcement, this Bureau is responsible for location and deportation of illegal aliens, unauthorized employment and smuggling of illegal aliens. This Bureau also seeks to prevent acts of terrorism by investigating activities related to terrorism. The BICE also seeks to identify vulnerable areas of the nation’s border, economy, transportation and infrastructure.

   c. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP): Under the reorganization of U.S. immigration, BCBP enforces the U.S. borders and performs customs work, inspection of those seeking entry into the United States, along with inspection of all imports and exports of goods.  

Federal Statutes and Regulations

Statutes are found in each of three sources: United States Code (USC), United States Code Annotated (USCA), and United States Code Service (USCS). In regard to all of these services, “Title 8” under the name of “Aliens and Nationality” covers immigration related statutes.

Adopted regulations are in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). As with the Federal Statutes, the source for immigration related issues are found under “Title 8” under the name of “Aliens and Nationality.” Proposed and adopted regulations are in the Federal Register. Adopted regulations appear first in this source and then in the CFR.

Review of Administrative Immigration Decisions

1. Executive Office for Immigration Review: Court review on immigration related matters begins with jurisdiction conferred to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). The EOIR judicial roles include adjudication of immigration cases in areas such as detained aliens, criminal aliens, and aliens seeking asylum as a form of relief from removal.

2. Board of Immigration Appeals: The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws. The BIA has been given nationwide jurisdiction to hear appeals from certain decisions rendered by Immigration Judges of the EOIR and by District Directors of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a wide variety of proceedings in which the Government of the United States is one party and the other party is either an alien, a citizen, or a business firm. In addition, the BIA is responsible for the recognition of organizations and accreditation of representatives requesting permission to practice before DHS, the Immigration Courts, and the Board. Decisions of the BIA are binding on all DHS officers and Immigration Judges unless modified or overruled by the Attorney General or a Federal court. All BIA decisions are subject to judicial review in the Federal courts. The majority of appeals reaching the BIA involve orders of removal and applications for relief from removal. Other cases before the BIA include the exclusion of aliens applying for admission to the United States, petitions to classify the status of alien relatives for the issuance of preference immigrant visas, fines imposed upon carriers for the violation of immigration laws, and motions for reopening and reconsideration of decisions previously rendered. 

Judicial review of decisions of the BIA then will go to a Federal District Court for adjudication.

For more information about the United States Federal Court system, please refer to: