Migrant Legal Action Program
Migrant Legal Action Program

Immigration Issues

Most farmworkers are immigrants or have immigrants in their families. Because of this, government immigration policies are of critical importance to them. This page describes a variety of immigration-related topics, including the ways immigrants can legalize (or not), state and local enforcement of federal immigration laws, access to driver’s licenses, efforts to increase access by immigrant (including undocumented) students to post-secondary education, immigrants’ access to public benefit programs such as Food Stamps and Medicaid and how immigrants may obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number for tax filing purposes. While immigration law and policy are federal, there are a variety of state-created laws and regulations that affect the everyday lives of immigrants.

Legalization for undocumented immigrants

Under construction.

• State and local enforcement of federal immigration laws

Immigration law is entirely federal and is found in the Immigration and Nationality Act (Title 8 of the United States Code). As a matter of general practice, only officials from the Department of Homeland Security are authorized to enforce immigration laws. State and local law enforcement officers do not have inherent authority to enforce immigration laws. However, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, as amended by the Homeland Security Act of 2002, created an exception to this general rule. Congress has given the Department of Homeland Security the power to enter into agreements with individual states and municipalities that would allow some of their law-enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law. For more on this deputization provision, click here.

• Immigrants’ access to driver’s licenses

The regulation of access to non-commercial driver’s licenses is entirely a matter of state law. Since September 11th, 2001, many state legislatures and state agencies (that administer the issuance of driver's licenses) have promulgated new statutes and regulations amending the identification requirements that applicants for personal driver’s licenses must present. Many states also require that applicants provide proof of their lawful presence in the United States in order to be eligible for a driver’s license.

For more information on state driver’s license eligibility and application requirements, including information on applying for a personal driver’s license in your state, click here.

• Immigrants’ access to post-secondary education

Under construction

• Immigrants’ access to public benefits

Under construction