State Immigration Laws vs. Federal Immigration Laws: What’s the Difference?
August 16, 2022
Article by Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C.
August 16, 2022
The United States of America is often cited for its diverse population. The mixture of cultures throughout the country has made it a haven for many immigrants who are forced away from their home countries, or who are looking for additional opportunities. Offering a smooth immigration process is an invaluable part of accommodating people from other countries.
Depending on factors like the global political climate and the current parties in power in the U.S., immigration law has been known to change frequently. There are a variety of regulations surrounding processes like naturalization and U.S. adjustment of status.
While the borders are still open for foreign individuals to legally enter the country, it can be a long and expensive process. There is already a significant waiting list for many United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) petitions.
The best way to avoid unnecessary expenses and wait times is to hire an immigration attorney with an in-depth knowledge of the laws. A good immigration lawyer can help you get documents and stay out of trouble. Mistakes during the immigration process will cost you. If you are trying to legally enter the U.S., reach out to a professional to put yourself on the fastest and most efficient route.
Immigration to the United States is regulated federally. In general, governing bodies—such as USCIS, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection, and Customs Enforcement—handle immigration affairs.
Legislation around immigration has been taking and changing shape for centuries. These laws don’t just address individuals entering the country, they also outline the privileges of new citizens, the repercussions of criminal action, time limits, etc.
Due to the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court has consistently upheld federal jurisdiction over immigration. This prevents state lawmakers from being able to single out individuals of a specific heritage.
Many states have passed––or tried to pass––immigration laws that give them control. More specifically, state laws have often targeted licensing laws for the regulation of immigrant employees living in the U.S. They also enact laws that give them control over public programs created for immigrants. This involves the applicants being required to prove citizenship status before accessing services.
State authorities are also permitted to help enforce federal immigration laws by detaining immigrants previously convicted of a felony. The interactions between state and federal immigration can be complicated and may require the ruling of a judiciary body for clarification.
There has been long standing contention between the federal and state governments pertaining to immigration legislation. The states are awarded many permissions by the Constitution in which their decisions carry the most weight. But when it comes to immigration, the federal government gets the final say, which makes states unhappy.
Immigration cases can be very costly, and sometimes immigration officials may need to seek assistance from state and local governments. This can cause even more issues because states can have a different idea of how they would like to see things play out.
While states have the option to write and pass legislation, nearly every law that’s been proposed to regulate immigrants at a state level has been challenged by litigation groups for civil liberty or the federal government.
Laws requiring photo identification violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Laws requiring proof of citizenship or legal residence and directives that allow law enforcement to check the citizenship of individuals they see as “suspicious” have been deemed as discriminatory towards select races.
Immigration laws can be both but are almost always federal. The government has explained that both immigration policy and enforcement are national responsibilities. In their eyes, trying to remedy immigration issues through “patchwork” state laws will only cause more problems.
In the past, differing immigration regulations between states have caused issues and raised tensions. For example, the privileges that an immigrant has in Texas may be different from their privileges in Illinois. Police officers in one state may be able to detain immigrants for certain things while they cannot in others.
The more you understand the difference between state and federal immigration regulations, the more likely you will be able to avoid any serious penalties.
While they have minimal power at the local level, immigration is predominantly ruled by the federal government. Keeping everything unified is the government’s way of trying to control the situation. If states were in control of immigration, it would be difficult for the federal government to enforce immigration laws across the country.
Federal laws outlaw a variety of actions that are not always communicated to new immigrants. If you are uncertain about your situation or worried you may have done something wrong, call an immigration lawyer as soon as possible to get things sorted out.
The consequences of breaking immigration law include fines, removal from the country, and potential bans on re-entry. While legally entering the U.S. is already a long and expensive process, it becomes much more difficult if you ignore rules or do something illegal.
As far as how state and federal laws play into the immigration process, status adjustments are made slightly easier by the fact that states aren’t very relevant. If you are attempting to legally earn citizenship or residence in the U.S., there is only one set of rules you must abide by and they are standardized throughout the country.
That also means that the Chicago immigration lawyers at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. can help you immigrate to any part of the country because the regulations are virtually the same. Our experienced attorneys can walk you through the lengthy process and ensure that you don’t make any mistakes. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can get started.