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Immigration: The Changing Face of America: U.S. Immigration Law


Introduction to Immigration Law

Getting Started

When beginning a new research project, it is usually helpful to consult sources that can provide either some background or a comprehensive overview of the subject you will be studying. Consulting these types of resources can help you understand the issues involved in your research area and assist you in developing a list of search terms to use in your research. You may want to consult legal periodicals, legal encyclopedias, or ALR annotations at this early stage of your research.


  • The United States Code - both annotated and official versions of the U.S. Code Titles 8, 18, 29, and 42 contain most of the federal statutes pertaining to immigration.
  • Online versions of the U.S. Code-though only the print version of the U.S. Code published by the Government Printing Office is official, there are several reputable online sources where you can find the U.S. Code. These include:
  • Federal Digital System (FDsys)
  • Cornell Legal Information Institute
  • United States House of Representatives
  • Proposed Federal Legislation -
  • Legislative Histories
  • Selected legislative history for any individual federal statute can be found by using the U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News(USCCAN), located in the Main Reading Room of the MLIC.

Organizations that help Immigrants

  • ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project.  Advocacy organization; includes press releases, information on asylum/refugees, detention, discrimination & workplace rights.  The site also includes select immigration cases and legislative testimony.
  • American Immigration Council (formerly the American Immigration Law Foundation.) Non-profit, advocacy organization.  Includes detailed Practice Advisories for practitioners on various immigration law topics.
  • American Immigration Lawyers Association.  The professional organization for immigration attorneys; holds an annual conference.  Resources include links to federal agencies, cases and decisions, legislation, "featured topics," web resources, and publications.  Many of the materials are restricted to AILA members. *See their NEW Resource Page: "Immigration 2017: A New President and Congress."
  • Center for Gender & Refugee Studies.  Based at UC Hastings School of Law, CGRS supports women asylum-seekers through scholarly research, policy work, and impact litigation. The site has a wealth of information on gender-based asylum, including general background information, US and international case law, country conditions information, scholarly articles and news.
  • Immigrant Legal Resource Center.  Provides trainings, materials and advocacy to advance immigrant rights.  Many online resources for practitioners, including publications.
  • Immigration Equality.  Advancing equal immigration rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and HIV-positive community. Includes LGBT and HIV Immigration Basics, the LGBT/HIV Asylum Manual, news, and resources for lawyers.
  • National Immigration Law Center.  Advocacy and policy organization for the rights of low-income immigrants, with a focus on employment rights and public benefits.  Includes issue briefs, news, select cases, and statistics.
  • National Lawyer's Guild: National Immigration Project.  Provides advocacy-oriented legal support on immigrant rights issues.  Specializes in defending the rights of immigrants facing incarceration and deportation.  Website includes sample briefs, overviews and guidance on particular issues, policy and legal updates, and links to other organizations.  Members can access brief bank.
  • Refworld.  Extensive collection of reports on country conditions, and policy & legal documents.  A project of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Federal Agencies with Immigration Responsibilities

Department of Homeland Security

Reviews and approves applications for immigration benefits, including immigrant visa petitions, naturalization petitions, and asylum and refugee applications. Part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Responsible for interior security. Includes two law enforcement divisions, Homeland Security Investigations and Enforcement and Removal Operations. Part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Responsible for inspecting persons and cargo passing through points of entry and securing the borders. Part of the Department of Homeland Security.


Department of Justice

Includes several offices, including the Board of Immigration Appeals, the immigration judges, and the administrative law judges. Immigration judges conduct removal hearings; administrative law judges hear cases involving employers and those alleging document fraud. The EOIR is part of theDepartment of Justice.

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC), part of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, enforces the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Department of State

Provides visa and passport services as well as services for overseas citizens. Part of the Department of State.

Websites of U.S. embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions abroad. Consular officers may, among other duties, issue visas to foreign nationals and passports to U.S. citizens.

Department of Labor

Judges preside over hearings on many kinds of labor-related matters, including matters involving immigrants and aliens. Includes the Board of Alien Labor Certifications, which reviews denials of certification of aliens for certain immigrant visas.

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Librarian Isabel Duque

Library of Congress Subject Headings

  • Asylum, Right of -- United States
  • Emigration and immigration law -- United States
  • Legal assistance to immigrants -- United States
  • Naturalization -- United States
  • Political refugees -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States
  • United States Immigration and Naturalization Service

How the United States Immigration System Works


  • The Code of Federal Regulations can be found in the MLIC's Main Reading Room.
  • Online versions of the CFR-though only the print version of the CFR published by the Government Printing Office is official, there are several reputable online sources where you can find the Code of Federal Regulations. These include:
  • Government Printing Office 
  • Cornell Legal Information Institute 
  • Proposed Regulations: 
  • The Federal Register - current issues can be found in the MLIC's Main Reading Room. Older issues are bound and placed on the 1st floor of the MLIC in the government documents compact shelving.
  • Online versions of the Federal Register -though only the print version of the Federal Registerpublished by the Government Printing Office is official, you can also find the Federal RegisterOnline at: Government Printing Office