Immigration laws in the United States date back to the passing of the Naturalization Act of 1790, which set forth the first rules for naturalized citizenship in the U.S. Since this time, many subsequent laws have been passed, with the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) serving as the primary body of law governing immigration matters in the United States. While there have been numerous immigration laws and amendments enacted over the years, our Towson immigration law firm has summarized a few of the key legal developments below.
The INA was passed in 1952 and was also known as the McCarran-Walter Act. Prior to the passage of the INA, a number of different statutes addressed immigration matters in the United States but they were not organized into a uniform body of law. Under the INA, these earlier laws were reorganized and codified into a single structure. Since this time, the INA has been amended several times but it still serves as the principal body of immigration law in the United States.
The INA established the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), a component of the U.S. Department of Justice responsible for handling immigration and naturalization. The INS was abolished in 2003, with its duties assumed by three components of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security: The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The Immigrant Act 1965, also known as the Hart-Cellar Act, served as an amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The Hart-Cellar Act demonstrated a striking departure with past immigration policy. This Act abolished the nation of origin quota system that had been the policy of the U.S. since the 1920s, and established a new preference system for immigration.
Under this revised system, the U.S. Government created new categories for immigration focused on the skills of the immigrant, family members of citizens or permanent residents of the U.S., and refugees of violence or unrest.
The Immigration Act of 1990 (IMMACT) served to increase the limits on the number individuals legally immigrating to the U.S. on an annual basis. The act revised the preference category system for immigration by establishing three separate categories: family-sponsored, employment-based, and “diversity” immigrants selected through a diversity lottery from countries with low immigration rates. IMMACT also amended the bases for exclusion and deportation, afforded a temporary protected status to aliens of certain countries and created an administrative process for naturalization.
In 1996 Congress passed the IIRIRA which made several changes to U.S. immigration laws. These changes included increasing the number of border patrol agents and improving the overall bordering process. The act also increased penalties for alien smuggling and expanded the INS’s ability to use wiretaps for document fraud and alien smuggling investigations. Additionally, the IIRIRA revised the procedures relating to the detection and removal of illegal aliens and amended the bases for deportation or exclusion from citizenship.
In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C., the Homeland Security Act was passed in 2002. This act created a new executive department of the United States – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) transferring most of the administrative duties formerly carried out by INS to the newly created United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and shifting immigration enforcement to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The REAL ID Act was signed into law in 2005. In part, this Act created national standards for state drivers’ licenses and non-driver I.D. cards. It also expanded earlier definitions of terrorist activities and organizations. Additionally, the law modified the eligibility criteria for asylum and increased the government’s authority to deny entry of or deport foreign nationals suspected of terrorist activities.
The attorneys at our Towson immigration law firm understand the complex and evolving body of laws associated with immigrating to the U.S. We know that immigration can be a very challenging process with many complicated steps and requirements. If you have questions about U.S. immigration procedures or need assistance with the process contact us today or call 410-321-4994.