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Immigration Agency Overview

When people talk about overhauling the immigration system, they are really talking about overhauling a complex network of various agencies that may wear different hats for different audiences. This article will explore a general overview of the agencies involved so that readers may understand just how broad the immigration system can be.

Department of Homeland Security



Perhaps the main “trunk” of immigration is the Department of Homeland Security, or more specifically the three agencies highlighted above in the picture: Customs & Border Protection (“CBP”), Citizenship & Immigration Services (“CIS”), and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (“ICE”). CBP is responsible for the enforcement of the borders and you will see them at airports and at the northern and southern borders.

CIS is responsible for the processing of most immigrant and nonimmigrant petitions, and citizenship applications. As further explained below, although the Secretary of State is often known for issuing visas in foreign countries, it is CIS that is responsible for adjudicating petitions and reviewing evidence. They may also, for employment-related immigration matters, conduct site visits and inspect businesses to ensure compliance with immigration laws. Finally, ICE is the enforcement arm of the immigration system. ICE is the department responsible for going after those who have committed immigration violations as well as exercising prosecutorial discretion when appropriate.

Department of Justice



The Department of Justice houses the Executive Offices for Immigration Review, which holds many of the agencies responsible for the many courts involved in the immigration system. There are the Immigration Courts where people who have committed immigration violations are processed as well as adverse decisions on immigration adjudications by USCIS, as well as the various appellate levels beyond that.

Department of Labor



The Department of Labor is an expansive agency, as one could tell by the chart. The Department of Labor’s role in immigration may seem small relative to the other immigration agencies, but the Department of Labor is the one who manages the lengthy labor certification application process, which may be required for a number of visas.

Secretary of State



Finally, the Secretary of State is responsible for the consular offices abroad and embassies. For many, if not all, immigrants, the consular offices will be the first contact they have with the immigration system. They are primarily responsible for screening individuals for visa eligibility. If a visa was denied, they will also guide the individual with the waiver process.

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