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Important Terms and Definitions to Know in Immigration Law 

The immigration sector of law is ever-changing. As decades and even centuries of immigration have gone by, laws have changed and legislation has brought new laws into the picture while others have been overridden. With so many new reforms coming into the picture, more immigration terms and phrases make their way as well.

 

For the most part, people are familiar with terms such as “green card” or visa, naturalization, adjustment of status, and several others. But there are many other terms that might not be used as often but are still very important to know considering they can be used in any case at any time. We run through a quick list of terms that are often misleading or misused that way you can better understand the context they are used in. 

 

Amnesty (Legalization) 

 

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 was often referred to as an “amnesty,” considering it included more conditions and longer time periods depending on an immigrant’s status. Amnesty is an older term for legalization, which is why it may cause confusion in different cases. There has been some debate regarding which term is the appropriate term, as each one may pose negative connotations to either the supporters or opponents of the act. 

 

Deportation (Expulsion) vs. Extradition

 

These two terms are known for being used interchangeably, but they do not mean the same things. Extradition is used when a criminal suspect held by one government is relocated to another government to go to trial. If a suspect has already been tried and found guilty, that is when they are deported; this is also known as the process of expulsion. With that being said, extradition and expulsion are two different terms. 

 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) vs. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

 

Both organizations play a critical role in immigration law and in the modern-day activity of immigration, but they both have different responsibilities. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is an agency that conducts enforcement and removal operations regarding immigration violations. These officials also investigate crimes that involve the crossing of the U.S. border. 

Customs and Border Protection oversees and protects the border and ports of entry. This agency is also charged with regulating trade and commerce operations across U.S. borders. 

 

“Merit-Based” Immigration

 

This term is used in various immigration systems that select immigrants for permanent residence based on the overall characteristics, as opposed to other ties such as familial relationships. This term includes a form of a point system, allocating points to a prospective permanent resident based on their age, language skills, and education. Those who meet desired specifications may apply to immigrate and reside in the United States legally.

 

Asylum Seeker and Refugee 

 

An asylum seeker is what an individual is called before they become a refugee if they are accepted into the United States for asylum. Asylum seekers are individuals who come to the United States for protection due to fear of persecution in their home country on account of race, religion, nationality, and other factors. Once an individual is accepted, they become an asylee.

 

Once an individual is residing in the United States to be protected from their home country they become a refugee. The United States accepts a designated number of refugees every year. 

 

Temporary Protected Status 

 

This status can be granted to individuals who are from a country that is no longer deemed safe to return to due to conditions such as military conflict, natural disaster, and other scenarios. This does not provide a direct path to a green card but it also does not prohibit individuals from applying for permanent residency. 

 

Unaccompanied Migrant Children 

 

Children who have illegally crossed the United States border without an accompanying adult are considered unaccompanied migrant children. In recent years, studies and trends show that unaccompanied children are crossing more than they ever have. If they are apprehended, they are transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement with the Department of Health and Human Services. 

 

Quota System 

 

A quota system is that which limits the number of immigrants that may enter the United States every year. These limits are based on nationality or where immigrants are coming from. 

 

Learn News and Updates in Immigration Law with the Professionals at Fong Ilagan

 

It doesn’t matter where you are at in the process of legalization or what your citizenship status is; understanding immigration law can help you in the long run. Have questions about your case? Need legal assistance? We’re here to help. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.

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