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How the United States Immigration System Works: A Fact Sheet

U.S. immigration law is very complex, and there is much confusion as to how it works. The Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA), the body of law governing current immigration policy, provides for an annual worldwide limit of 675,000 permanent immigrants, with certain exceptions for close family members. Congress and the President determine a separate number for refugee admissions. Immigration to the United States is based upon the following principles: the reunification of families, admitting immigrants with skills that are valuable to the U.S. economy, protecting refugees, and promoting diversity. This fact sheet provides basic information about how the U.S. legal immigration system is designed.

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Published On: Sat, Mar 01, 2014 | Download File

Why Don’t They Just Get In Line?

The Real Story of Getting a “Green Card” and Coming to the United States Legally

Many Americans wonder why all immigrants do not just come to the United States legally or simply “get in line” to gain residence (a “green card”) if they are undocumented. Yet few people understand how grossly out-of-date the U.S. immigration system is and how unable it is to keep up with the demands of a growing and changing U.S. economy and to reflect the needs and values of our diverse nation. Lawmakers have failed for nearly 20 years to update our immigration laws or address the limited opportunities for securing legal immigration status. Today’s overly restrictive legal limits on green cards mean that virtually all undocumented immigrants have no avenues for legal entry to the United States

No “line” available for the vast majority of undocumented immigrants

Suggestions that immigrants who are in the United States illegally—numbering an estimated 11 million—should simply get in line miss the point: There is no line available for them and the “regular channels” do not include them. If given a choice, opinion surveys of undocumented immigrants indicate that 98 percent would prefer to live and work legally in the United States and would do so if they could. Furthermore, a recent survey of Latino immigrants found that more than nine in 10 who have not naturalized said they would if they had the possibility.Read more...

Published On: Thu, Mar 14, 2013 | Download File

Overhauling Immigration Law: A Brief History and Basic Principles of Reform

By Mary Giovagnoli

For more than a decade, efforts to systematically overhaul the United States immigration system have been overshadowed by other events—from foreign wars and national security concerns to the financial crisis that threatened to bring down the world economy. In addition to this ever-changing list of national crises, years of partisan political fighting and the resurgence of a volatile restrictionist movement that thrives on angry rhetoric have made opportunities for advancing genuine reform few and far between. As a result, many in both parties opted for a political strategy that emphasized immigration enforcement over immigration reform, holding to the argument that efficiently deporting non-citizens would reduce illegal immigration and pave the way for more sensible outcomes in the future. Instead, the unprecedented spending on immigration enforcement, the extraordinary rise in deportations, the passage of state anti-immigrant laws, and the almost daily anecdotes of separated families and discrimination finally took their toll. Voters signaled in the 2012 federal elections that they were tired of enforcement-only immigration policies and the senseless pain they caused. Now more than ever, the opportunity to craft immigration laws that reflect American values and needs is a distinct possibility. The White House, Members of Congress, and countless organizations have issued new ideas and principles for making the system work. These proposals vary and will likely change even more as proposals translate into legislation, but there are a number of common themes that exist. This paper lays out an overview of the underlying legal system, the most basic principles of reform, the reasons behind them, and how they are likely to be reflected in coming legislation.Read more...

Published On: Thu, Feb 14, 2013 | Download File

Aggravated Felonies: An Overview

“Aggravated felony” is a term of art used to describe a category of offenses carrying particularly harsh immigration consequences for non-citizens convicted of such crimes. Regardless of their immigration status, non-citizens who have been convicted of an “aggravated felony” are prohibited from receiving most forms of relief that would spare them from deportation, including asylum, and from being readmitted to the United States at any time in the future. Read more...

Published On: Fri, Mar 16, 2012 | Download File

The Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program: A Fact Sheet

Immigration law is highly complex. Determining which non-citizens are “lawfully” or “unlawfully” present and whether they should be allowed to stay in the United States are complex matters which involve the interpretation of a range of federal laws and regulations, broad policy considerations, and prioritization of existing resources, to name just a few considerations. Read more...

Published On: Thu, Dec 15, 2011 | Download File

Secure Communities: A Fact Sheet

Updated 11/29/11 - While the implementation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the state/local partnership agreements known as the 287(g) program has been a source of great controversy, it is far from the only tool ICE uses to engage state and local law enforcement in immigration control.  Most notably, the Secure Communities Program, which launched in March 2008, has been held out as a simplified model for state and local cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. This fact sheet lays out the basics of Secure Communities program, how it works, key areas of concern and recommendations on how to improve the program. Read more...

Published On: Tue, Nov 29, 2011 | Download File

Immigration and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA): A Q&A Fact Check

Q: What is the Defense of Marriage Act?
A: In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Section 3 of DOMA defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. At the time DOMA was enacted, no state permitted same-sex marriages. Today, six states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriages; several other states honor out-of-state marriages and/or recognize civil unions. Read more...

Published On: Thu, Aug 18, 2011 | Download File

The Diversity Visa System: A Fact Sheet

What is the diversity visa lottery?

The diversity visa lottery was created to encourage legal immigration to the U.S. from countries other than the major immigrant sending countries.  The current immigration system favors individuals who have close relationships with family members or employers in the U.S.  People who do not have close family or employment in the U.S. have very few opportunities for permanent, legal immigration to the U.S. Read more...

Published On: Mon, Apr 04, 2011 | Download File

Employment-Based Immigration to the United States: A Fact Sheet

U.S. law provides employers with several limited ways to bring foreign workers into the U.S. on a temporary or permanent basis. Employment-based immigration visa categories generally have limited and static numerical caps. In addition, before petitioning for a foreign worker, an employer is often required to obtain certification from the Department of Labor (DOL) that there are no U.S. workers available, willing, and qualified to fill the position at a wage that is equal to or greater than the prevailing wage generally paid for that occupation in the geographic area where the position is located. The purpose of this restriction is to demonstrate that the admission and hiring of foreign workers will not adversely affect the job opportunities, wages, and working conditions of U.S. workers.    Read more...

Published On: Tue, Mar 29, 2011 | Download File

The Unauthorized Population Today

Number Holds Steady at 11 million, Three-Fifths Have Been Here More Than a Decade

Recent estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) indicate that the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States has remained unchanged at roughly 11 million since 2009.  This comes after a two-year decline of approximately one million that corresponded closely to the most recent recession, which ran from December 2007 to June 2009.  Despite that decline, the new data make clear that the current population of unauthorized immigrants is very much part of the social and economic fabric of the country.  Three-fifths of unauthorized immigrants have been in the United States for more than a decade.  Unauthorized immigrants comprise more than one-quarter of the foreign-born population and roughly 1-in-20 workers.  Approximately 4.5 million native-born U.S.-citizen children have at least one unauthorized parent.  While the largest numbers of unauthorized immigrants are concentrated in California and Texas, there also are sizable unauthorized populations in Florida, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Georgia, North Carolina, and Maryland.  In short, unauthorized immigrants who are already in the country have become integral to U.S. businesses, communities, and families.

The size of the unauthorized population has remained unchanged at roughly 11 million since 2009.Read more...

Published On: Tue, Mar 22, 2011 | Download File