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Immigration Law Research

Recommended research strategies and sources for immigration law.

Department of Justice

Department of Justice

Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)

The EOIR is responsible for interpreting and administering federal immigration laws by conducting immigration court proceedings, appellate reviews, and administrative hearings. The EOIR has three components:

  • Board of Immigration Appeals - The BIA is the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws. BIA decisions are binding on all DHS officers and immigration judges unless modified or overruled by the Attorney General or a federal court. The majority of appeals reaching the BIA involve orders of removal and applications for relief from removal.
  • Office of the Chief Immigration Judge - The OCIJ is led by the chief immigration judge, who establishes operating policies and oversees policy implementation for the immigration courts. OCIJ provides overall program direction and establishes priorities for approximately 400 immigration judges located in 63 immigration courts across the country.
  • Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer - Administrative law judges under the OCAHO hear cases and adjudicate issues arising under the provisions of the INA relating to: (1) knowingly hiring, recruiting, or referring for a fee unauthorized aliens, or the continued employment of unauthorized aliens, failure to comply with employment eligibility verification requirements, and requiring indemnity bonds from employees in violation of section 274A of the INA (employer sanctions); (2) immigration-related unfair employment practices in violation of section 274B of the INA; and (3) immigration-related document fraud in violation of 274C of the INA

The EOIR website provides a helpful chart for researchers to better understand the structure of this agency.  In the documents section of the EOIR website, you will also find access to administrative decisions, court practice manuals, statistics, and reports created by the agency. The EOIR also provides various forms required for use in the immigration courts overseen by the agency.

Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices

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. Their website provides news updates, forms, and other educational material for those who believe an employer has violated relevant portions of the INA.

Department of Homeland Security

Department of Homeland Security

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

The USCIS carries out the administrative functions related to the immigration process, such as immigrant visa petitions, naturalization petitions, and asylum applications. Their website provides access to a variety of forms, tools for navigating the immigration process, and legal resources outlining the relevant statutory and regulatory law administered by the USCIS.

The following are just a few of the important resources that can be found on the USCIS website.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

ICE was created in 2003 through a merger of the investigative and interior enforcement elements of the former U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. ICE is chiefly responsible for border and infrastructure security, and it includes two law enforcement divisions, Homeland Security Investigations and Enforcement and Removal Operations.

Researchers interested in learning more about this agency should visit their "Information Library," which provides access to statistics, forms, and Federal Register notices and regulations. When conducting research through this website, be sure to check for the update information, as some pages appear to have been last updated more than a year ago.


Customs & Border Protection (CBP)

CBP is a law enforcement organization charged with border management and control, which regularly involves enforcing elements of customs, immigration, border security, agricultural protection, and trade laws. Their primary activities involve keeping terrorists and weapons out of the U.S., but they also regularly facilitate trade and travel across U.S. borders.

Because the legal mandate for the CBP is so broad, their website provides information on their agency's enforcement activities surrounding a variety of federal laws. For instance, you can find guidance on the basics of importing/exporting goods, along with direct links to relevant ruling letters and regulations promulgated by the CBP on international trade issues. The website is broken down into three main components: trade, travel, and border security.

Other Agencies

Agencies with Limited Immigration Responsibilities

Department of State

The Department of State oversees the issuance of visa to the United States. The "Immigrate" page of the DOS website provides on information on available visas, along with a detailed overview of the immigrant visa process.

Department of Labor

Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC)

The Secretary of Labor is responsible under the INA for administering labor certification and attestation programs which are designed to ensure that the admission of foreign workers into the United States on a permanent or temporary basis will not adversely affect the job opportunities, wages, and working conditions of U.S. workers. The Secretary of Labor has delegated these responsibilities to the OFLC,and their website provides overviews of the various foreign worker visas available. The website also provides access to forms/instructions and overviews of relevant federal employment and labor laws and regulations.

The DOL website also provides a brief overview of the types of immigration appeals that may be heard by their administrative law judges.

Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Administration for Children and Families 

Office of Refugee Resettlement

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) provides new populations with the opportunity to achieve their full potential in the United States. Their programs provide people in need with critical resources to assist them in becoming integrated members of American society.

Researchers will likely be interested in the policy section of the ORR's website, as it provides access to Policy Letters, Information Memoranda, Dear Colleague Letters, Reports, and State Letters authored by the agency in furtherance of their responsibility to interpret and enforce ORR policies.