Other Federal legislation

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Federal Legislation and Supreme Court Cases



Law or Supreme Court Case


Plyler v. Doe 

In 1982 the United States Supreme Court overturned a Texas law that barred the children of undocumented immigrants from public elementary and secodnary schools (K-12). The court’s ruling affirmed that elementary and secondary education is a fundamental right for all children regardless of their immigration and legal status.



Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)

Passed in 1986, IRCA was the last comprehensive federal immigration law passed in the United States. IRCAS’s main provisions included (1) amnesty for undocumented immigrants who could prove residency for a number of years; (2) imposed criminal and civil penalties againist employers who knowingly hired undocumented immigrants; and (3) disbursment of approximately $ 4 billion to state and local governments for welfare and education programs. Approximately 3 million people had their status legalized under IRCA.



Temporary Protective Status (TPS)

The U.S. government may grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to persons already in the United States who came from certain countries experiencing conditions of war or natural disasters. TPS allows a person to live and work in the United States for a specific time period, but it does not lead to U.S. permanent residence (a green card).

Source 1, Source 2, Source 3


Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA)

Section 505 of IIRIRA prohibits states from offering higher education benefits to undocumented students without offering those same benefits to U.S. citizens and nationals who meet certain criteria. AB540 and similar legislation was drafted in such a way so that all students who meet specific requirements are eligible for its benefits.



Dream Act (Federal)

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (The “DREAM Act”) is a piece of proposed federal legislation in the U.S. that has been introduced in the Senate and the House of Representatives several times. This bill would provide certain undocumented individuals who graduate from U.S. high schools, who are of good moral character, arrived in the U.S. as minors, and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency.

The recent proposed Federal DREAM Act has four basic requirements, which are:

  • First entry into the U.S. before the age of 16;
  • Graduate high school or obtain a GED in the U.S.;
  • Have good moral character; and
  • Have at least five years of continuous presence in the U.S.

If applicants meet the above criteria, once the DREAM Act passes, they will then have six years within which to obtain a two-year college degree or complete two-years of military service. Upon doing all of this, applicants will gain the chance to adjust their conditional permanent residency to U.S. citizenship.

Source 1, Source 2


Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Executive order passed by the Obama administration in 2012, which offered temporary relief to eligible undocumented immigrants who came to the United States. This nationwide order protected those eligible from deportation and provided them with a work permit that was subject to renewal every two-years.



Obergefell v. Hodges

The Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges has made same-sex marriage legal across the U.S. since 2015. This overturns the 1996 law, Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), that prevented the federal government from recognizing gay marriage. Therefore, now, United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) must recognize marriages between spouses of the same sex as long as the marriages were made in ‘good faith’ (meaning were based on wanting to plan their future lives together and not just a false marriage so that the immigrant spouse can get papers).



Public Charge

“Public charge,” as defined by the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS, now U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)), refers to an individual who is likely to become “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.”1 The term describes persons who cannot support themselves and who depend on benefits that provide cash—such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)—for their income. An individual who is likely at any time to become a public charge is inadmissible to the United States and ineligible to become a lawful permanent resident.

Source 1, Source 2, Source 3