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Immigration

Immigration law in the United States generally includes the rights and obligations of persons who are not U.S. citizens to temporarily visit or more permanently reside in the U.S.—and for federal and state governments to enforce immigration laws regarding visitors and residents.

Most immigration law consists of federal statutes and regulations—but many state laws impact both legal and illegal immigrants—including employment checks, E-Verify, law enforcement, driver's license requirements, public benefits restrictions, and more.

In Texas, as in all states, immigration law is primarily governed by federal statutes and regulations, as the authority to regulate immigration is a federal power. This includes laws pertaining to visas, green cards, asylum, deportation, and citizenship. However, Texas has state laws that affect immigrants as well. For example, Texas employers are required to use the federal E-Verify system to check the work eligibility of new employees to ensure they are authorized to work in the United States. Law enforcement in Texas may also inquire about the immigration status of individuals during lawful stops or detentions. Texas has specific requirements for driver's licenses that may impact immigrants, and the state restricts access to certain public benefits for those without legal immigration status. It's important to note that while state laws can impact immigrants, they must not conflict with federal immigration laws.



Texas Statutes & Rules

Federal Statutes & Rules

Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. § 1101 et seq.
The INA is the primary source of federal immigration law.

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).

Real ID Act of 2005, Pub.L. 109–13, 119 Stat. 302
The Real ID Act sets standards for state-issued driver's licenses and ID cards that are required for certain federal purposes.

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.

Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996, Division C of Pub.L. 104–208
The IIRIRA addresses various aspects of immigration law including enforcement and penalties for immigration violations.

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.

Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996, Pub.L. 104–193
The PRWORA includes provisions that restrict access to public benefits for certain 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.

Secure Fence Act of 2006, Pub.L. 109–367
The Secure Fence Act focuses on immigration enforcement and border security.

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.