The federal government regulates immigration under rules established in 1952 when the Immigration and Nationality Act was passed. In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act was passed to curb unauthorized immigration. The IRCA strengthened sanctions against employers who hire undocumented immigrants and deny welfare benefits to them.
The White House is responsible for enforcing immigration laws while the U.S. Congress controls all regulations related to immigration. The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently upheld the federal government’s jurisdiction over immigration law. Federal laws overrule state laws in most cases according to the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Although the federal government does have jurisdiction over immigration laws, many states have passed their own immigration legislation with directives that affect immigrants, like police checks on a person’s legal residence status and limited access to public benefits for undocumented immigrants. It is not always clear whether such laws are constitutional. Several states have passed laws that regulate immigration, including challenges to the 14th Amendment provision that grants automatic citizenship to individuals born in the United States.
Many state laws that affect immigration are challenged by the federal government, by civil liberties groups or through litigation. Some of these state laws have been challenged by the federal government on the grounds of jurisdiction. According to a DOJ brief, it is the federal government’s responsibility to set immigration laws and enforce them.
Immigration to the United States is a complex and evolving legal landscape. Individuals who are facing issues with immigration at the state or federal level might seek the advice of an experienced immigration attorney. An attorney with a background in immigration law may help individuals navigate the United States immigration system.