The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) establishes the legal foundation for immigration in the United States. It outlines the conditions for temporary visits, permanent residency, and citizenship. The INA sets forth the criteria for various visa categories, including family-based, employment-based, and humanitarian protections such as asylum and refugee status. It also defines the grounds for inadmissibility and deportability, detailing the reasons a non-citizen may be denied entry or removed from the U.S. The Act is enforced by federal agencies such as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The Real ID Act of 2005 amended federal laws pertaining to security, authentication, and issuance procedures standards for state driver's licenses and identification cards. It prohibits federal agencies from accepting driver's licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act's minimum standards for use in accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft. This Act affects immigrants as states may require proof of legal presence in the U.S. to issue compliant licenses and IDs.
The IIRIRA transformed immigration enforcement and penalties in the United States. It expanded the grounds for inadmissibility and deportation, streamlined the removal process, and introduced expedited removal for certain inadmissible individuals. The Act also implemented penalties for immigration-related offenses, such as illegal entry and document fraud. It mandated the use of an electronic system for verifying employment eligibility (E-Verify) and increased the penalties for employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers. Additionally, the IIRIRA addressed detention and deportation procedures, including the controversial practice of mandatory detention for certain categories of immigrants.
The PRWORA reformed welfare programs and included provisions that limited access to federal public benefits for immigrants. The Act generally bars undocumented immigrants from most federal benefits, with limited exceptions for emergency services. Legal immigrants are also restricted from accessing federal means-tested public benefits until they have been in lawful status for five years. This includes programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Act allows states to determine immigrants' eligibility for state and local public benefits.
The Secure Fence Act of 2006 was enacted to help secure America's borders to decrease illegal entry, drug trafficking, and security threats by building physical barriers and improving surveillance technology. The Act authorized the construction of hundreds of miles of additional fencing along the southern border, the use of more vehicle barriers, checkpoints, and lighting to prevent illegal immigration, and the deployment of advanced technology such as cameras, satellites, and unmanned aerial vehicles to reinforce infrastructure at the border.