Continuing our weekly series on lesser-known areas of the law, I’ll be dedicating this post to immigration law. I’ve been peripherally familiar with immigration law for quite some time. When I was in high school, I participated in team policy debate (yes, I was a nerd even back then). Not to brag or anything, but I’m a national champion (in a homeschool debate league, see above regarding nerdiness), and the topic during my winning year was reforming our immigration policy. I also worked for a whole month at an immigration law firm (and I only gave one person false hope that they could finally get a green card after years of waiting…still feel guilty about that). So, I’m basically an expert.
Immigration law is a hot issue right now. On Friday, the Solicitor General of the United States petitioned the Supreme Court to consider an appeal of a preliminary injunction against President Obama’s deferred action plans. You can read all the details here, but the basic gist of these plans is that the government will hold off on instituting immigration actions that would lead to deportation for certain groups of immigrants, namely those that arrived in the US as children and their families. They would afford temporary legal status to as many as five million undocumented migrants living in the United States. A federal court blocked implementation of these plans on procedural grounds, not addressing the substantive complaint that the president is unconstitutionally rewriting a law by picking and choosing whom it applies to.
This drive to confer legal status on undocumented immigrants is not without precedent in the nation’s history. In 1986, President Reagan signed into law a bill that, among other things, granted legal status to undocumented individuals living within the United States.
On the flip side, many individuals push for tighter border controls and removing incentives to enter the country illegally. If you’ve been listening to the Republican debates, you’ve probably heard Donald Trump harping on the idea of building a wall (using Mexico’s money). A more legalistic argument made by some politicians is to deny citizenship to the children of undocumented migrants. The 14th Amendment grants citizenship to individuals born in the United States and “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” The argument goes, according to some, that the children of undocumented migrants are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States—their parents are not legally residing in the country—so they do not fall under the ambit of the Amendment.
A less incendiary approach to immigration policy revolves around the visa process. Those favoring immigration often push for an increase in work visas. The idea being that migrants will come to the United States legally to work for a few years and then return home. Many also argue for an increase in visas for highly educated individuals, such as doctors. Many rural areas in the United Stares are medically understaffed, so proposals include granting visas to immigrants willing to work in those rural locations.
Given the importance of immigration in the national conversation right now, immigration law is assured to be a dynamic and active area of legal practice in the coming years. If you’re interested in learning more about becoming an immigration lawyer, check out this article posted by the ABA.