Adolescent dives headfirst into immigration laws with poor swimming instruction and shoddy navigational skills
June 18, 2009 1:08 AM   Subscribe

Help a bewildered high schooler understand immigration legislation, the current political climate and key issues surrounding the debate.

Hi. I don't know if there is a previous question on this. I am a shoddy searcher.

I'm interested in reading federal and California immigration laws, the actual legislation text, and things to help me understand it. Doing extensive research as part of a project to advocate the DREAM act. My public library's reference section is not portable, although I don't even know where to start, and it'd take an awful lot of quarters to make that many I turn to the internet.

Immigration law is complicated. I want to understand it as much as possible. I'm not really taking my Government and History class until next year (high school level) but I am rather determined to know as much as my fresh, supple young brain can absorb about immigration, so I can most accurately defend the thing.

What are some key acts and laws to look into to understand the current immigration scene? Any intriguing articles to recommend? Any arguments involving the DREAM act that you feel are poorly addressed? Anything would help. Reference numbers. Books.

PS. This is not homework, so you don't have to worry about me attempting to swindle you all into doing my assignments.

PPS. I am sort of familiar with the DREAM act itself, and the Immigration/Nationality act, but I would also like to know your concerns if you're iffy about the DREAM act, or wholeheartedly against it. Sorry this is such a mixed bag question. Are you going to delete it admin? It's pretty rambly.

PPPS. If you are a teacher, teaching resources would help too, as after I learn everything this summer I plan on spreading the seed of legislative knowledge.

posted by mmmleaf to Law & Government (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
pssttt by 'familiar with the immigration & nationality act' I mean I know what it is but have yet to finish reading it the whole way through, I suppose that would be useful. Sorry for being bad at this question thingy.
posted by mmmleaf at 1:09 AM on June 18, 2009

Law School students often make course outlines to help them study for exams. A google search of Immigration Law Outline turns up several. But those a fair in-depth.

You could start on wikipedia.
This link to an entry on Immigration Law, has several links you follow, leading to some of the most defining laws in US Immigration history, like the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Immigration Act of 1952
posted by Flood at 5:33 AM on June 18, 2009

This may be more advanced reading for a high schooler, but why not give it a try since you seem ambitious. Daniel Tichenor's book, Dividing Lines: The Politics of Immigration Control in America, is a quite good history of US immigration policy.
posted by quodlibet at 6:03 AM on June 18, 2009

Flood makes good suggestions, particularly as this is a pretty big area of law, with a lot of sensitive political considerations on both sides of just about every issue.

But a few pointers would probably be helpful so you even know what you're looking at.

First, there's a federalism issue here, i.e. the division of power between the states and the federal government. Immigration law is an issue which is entirely federal, as Congress has the power to "establish a uniform rule of nationalization" (US Const., Art. I, sec. 8, cl. 4) and has asserted plenary power there (see generally 8 U.S.C. ch. 11-15; chapters 1-10 have all been repealed), excluding any state activity. So there is no such thing as "California immigration law," or any other state for that matter.

This is important to remember, as a lot of states are trying to get a piece of the action here, and various states have attempted to crack down/go easy on illegal immigrants. This is a rather novel legal activity, so how this is going to play out is not exactly clear. At best, it seems the states can get away with either being very insistent upon the production of documents or declining to use their state and local police forces to enforce federal law, but the states themselves cannot enact any statutes or regulations regarding immigration status. To my knowledge, all such laws have been struck down by federal courts. In the case of a crackdown, as long as state/local cops are simply enforcing federal law, which they can definitely do, no one is likely to win that case. Conversely, if the cops decide to completely ignore federal immigration law, only the federal government would have standing to challenge that in court, and suing the states isn't something the Justice Department likes to do on a regular basis. It's a political mess. So apart from enacting actual laws on the subject, states do seem to have a pretty wide range of enforcement options available to them.

Second, a lot of the actual law on the subject is in the form of regulations promulgated by the Secretary of Homeland Security, not actual statutes. Administrative law is a rather interesting kettle of fish, and it's not always the easiest to get your head around unless you know what's going on. For what it's worth, the relevant materials can be found in 8 C.F.R., but don't just start reading. Even immigration lawyers don't do that. Use that link as a reference should you find a citation referring there.

Ultimately though, you may get your most useful results out of mucking about on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website. If you hit "Services & Benefits" at the top left, there are a bunch of links on the left side of the page with introductory information about various immigration issues, from visiting temporarily, getting a green card, getting work authorization without a green card, naturalization, etc. I think on balance you're probably more interested in the practical outworking and basic structure of the law than you are in more arcane legislative and regulatory provisions, so it'd be my recommendation that you start here.

From there, I'd move to Cornell Law School's immigration page, which seems to be exactly what you're looking for, and it's complete with links to relevant statutes and tons of helpful materials. That should get you well on your way to being able to tackle some of the more political questions.

Good luck!
posted by valkyryn at 6:25 AM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Christopher Jencks, writing in the New York Review of Books in 2001, provides a good overview of the immigration issue. According to Jencks, a policy to address illegal immigration will have to have two parts in order to be politically feasible: an amnesty for illegal immigrants already in the United States (the DREAM act would fit into this category); and a simple, effective way for employers to identify illegal immigrants, with serious penalties imposed on businesses that hire illegal immigrants.
posted by russilwvong at 6:30 AM on June 18, 2009

posted by mmmleaf at 9:54 AM on June 18, 2009

For federal law, just buy the Immigration Law and Procedure Nutshell.
posted by saslett at 4:07 PM on June 18, 2009

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