Texas State Immigration Laws
The intricacies of immigration law are complicated and challenging to understand. Different state laws imposed by local governments may also affect the application of immigration laws. Regardless of the complexity, you must know your rights under immigration law. This rule applies to migrants, noncitizens, asylum seekers, and those going through the immigration process. Below are some of the topics in this article:
- Law enforcement and immigration in Texas
- Employment checks and E-Verify requirements
- Driver's license/ID requirements
- Public benefit restrictions
- Educational restrictions
- Housing laws and immigration
- Related resources
- Speak With an Immigration Attorney
Below you will find helpful information about immigration law enforcement and the fundamental civil rights of migrants.
The federal government works with local law enforcement authorities to carry out immigration policies. Some government programs highlight this collaboration. Among them is the Section 287(g) program implemented by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) integrated Section 287(g). With this program, state authorities work with federal agencies identify and remove non-U.S. citizens that pose a threat to U.S. communities. This includes noncitizens who have committed crimes.
Several county sheriff's offices in Texas take part in this program. The ICE 287(g) Program website shows a complete list of participating counties.
Besides 287(g), ICE also has Criminal Apprehension Program (CAP). This program fights illegal immigration. Local law enforcement officers also help the enforcement and removal operations (ERO) identify, arrest, and remove noncitizens in jail. The immigration officials will assess the immigration status and the person's criminal charge(s). Then the immigration officers will decide if the noncitizen will undergo deportation or removal.
Meanwhile, the federal government has agencies that work as a centralized body for matters related to immigration laws. Below are some of these government agencies:
- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
These federal agencies work together to enforce and manage immigration laws. They also secure U.S. borders and ensure the nation is free from threats.
The Department of Homeland Security created a system to check the employment eligibility of immigrants. This system is E-verify. It's an online program with information and the immigration status of individuals. The system helps employers verify all new employees. The DHS administers the program with the Social Security Administration.
- Institutions of higher education
- Other agencies in any branch of the Texas government
U.S. Citizens, lawful permanent residents, refugees, or asylees can get driver's licenses in Texas. To apply for a driver's license, you should bring one of the following documents:
- Valid U.S. passport (unexpired)
- Valid foreign passport (unexpired), U.S. visa with valid I-94. The DMV may waive the visa requirements for parolees of the following jurisdictions: The Republic of the Marshall Islands, The Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and certain Canadian nonimmigrants.
- Immigrant visa with temporary I-551 language and ADIT stamp
- Valid Permanent Resident card (From I-551)
- Valid employment authorization document (EAD Card)
For more information about applying for a driver's license in Texas, visit the Department of Public Safety website.
The Federal government limits access to public benefits for undocumented immigrants. But they can use those necessary for health and safety. The following are some of the benefits that undocumented immigrants can enjoy:
- Child Care Development Fund
- Nutrition program
- Emergency Medicaid
- Prenatal care
- Emergency shelter
- Disaster relief
Note that access to public benefits may vary depending on the person's immigration status. For more information, American University compiled a detailed chart that reflects these benefits.
Texas legislature signed House Bill 1403 into law in 2001. The Bill was also called Texas Dream Act. The law gave undocumented immigrants access to state financial aid and in-state tuition. This benefit extends to DACA recipients (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
Out-of-state tuition rates are generally three times higher than in-state tuition rates. But, this Texas law made higher education more affordable even for undocumented immigrants enrolled in Texas.
To be eligible for in-state tuition in Texas, the student should meet the following requirements:
- Graduated from a high school in Texas or received the equivalent diploma in Texas.
- A resident of Texas for at least three years before graduating from high school
- Registered as a student in an institution for higher education in Texas
- They have provided an affidavit stating that the student will apply to become a lawful permanent resident at the earliest eligibility time.
Texas adopts the Fair Housing Act, which protects people from discriminatory housing practices. Every person has the right to housing-related activities such as the following:
- Financing of houses
- Home appraisal
Rights to access fair housing are available regardless of race, national origin, religion, disability, sex, or familial status.
There are nonprofit organizations that help immigrants in Texas. The following are some of these organizations:
It protects needy immigrants and works toward a fair and just immigration system. It provides a coordinated approach to immigration cases. It collaborates with immigration attorneys to offer legal representation to migrants in need.
It promotes immigrant equity, inclusion, and justice by strengthening and uniting diverse allies. They work to provide high-quality legal services at a low cost for immigrants in Houston, Texas.
Its mission is to give immigration legal services and social services to immigrants in the Greater Houston area. It also provides law enforcement advocacy, criminal case status updates, legal services, and outreach and education.
It offers immigration services to underserved and low-income immigrants and their families. They also help Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), unaccompanied children, and victims of domestic violence.
Please note that this is a partial list. There are other legal resources and organizations available in Texas that provide support and help to immigrants. For more information, you may visit the website of the Immigration Advocates Network.
The immigration journey can be overwhelming and daunting. Various rules and regulations in each state affect the application of federal laws. We recommend you speak with an immigration lawyer. They can give you legal advice tailored to your case.
Immigration attorneys can also help migrants and their families with their immigration applications. The following are some of the services immigration attorneys can offer:
- Change of immigration status
- Application for family-based immigration
- Help with naturalization or U.S. citizenship application
- Acquisition of lawful permanent residency or green card
- Legal representation in immigration court
- Legal help in deportation or removal proceedings
- Other matters related to U.S. immigration laws
To know more about U.S. immigration laws, FindLaw offers free access to immigration law resources. Here, you can also find a directory of immigration lawyers available in every city in Texas. Whether you are in Austin, Houston, or anywhere else in Texas, there's an immigration attorney that can help you.
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Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you get the best results possible.