When it comes to immigration laws, Texas is in an interesting situation. Most states don’t have separate immigration laws from the federal government because immigration is historically regulated nationally.

However, in 2023, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 4 (SB4), which allows state and local enforcement of immigration, even in situations where federal officials might not be able to act. SB4 is currently on hold as litigation works its way through the courts. But depending on court decisions, it could become enforced as a state law sometime soon.

Who Is Covered by Immigration Laws in Austin, TX?

Immigration laws primarily apply to noncitizens who are present in the U.S. (legally or illegally) or noncitizens who wish to travel to the United States. However, if SB4 becomes an active law, some of the provisions within the law could affect citizens as well.

Typically, citizens are affected by immigration laws only in limited ways. They may, for example, be required to provide sponsorship for a green card applicant or need to submit to an interview so the government can get information about another party.

Immigrant Rights Under Texas Immigration Laws

Documented immigrants have nearly as many rights under Texas laws as citizens do. For example, documented immigrants have the right to:

  • work and rent a domicile
  • apply for a Social Security number
  • be protected by Texas and federal labor laws
  • not answer questions about immigration status from an employer or law enforcement officer
  • collect unemployment
  • receive Disaster Unemployment Assistance
  • remain silent when questioned by law enforcement, as per the Fifth Amendment
  • not be subjected to unreasonable search and seizure, as per the Fourth Amendment
  • be represented by a lawyer

Undocumented students who have lived in the state for at least three years are eligible to receive financial aid and can pay in-state tuition fees at Texas colleges.

Texas Laws That Impact Immigrants

If it isn’t found to be unconstitutional by a federal court, SB4 will have the greatest impact of any local law on immigrants. This law makes it a misdemeanor for a person to illegally cross the border in Texas between points of entry and allows police to question and arrest people they suspect to have entered illegally.

The main impact will be on asylum-seekers. Typically, asylum-seekers can petition for asylum even if they enter the U.S. illegally. However, if they are convicted of a crime while in the U.S., they could be subject to removal before their petition is considered.

Another law that impacts immigrants is being enforced. Certain employers in the state (including state agencies, colleges and sexually oriented businesses) are required to use E-Verify to confirm that their new employees can legally work in the U.S., and the system is voluntary for other employers. This system does not reveal whether the potential employees are immigrants. It just shows whether they are legally entitled to work in the United States.

Filing Process for Immigration in Austin, TX

Filing for immigration is a complicated, multistep process. Applicants have the right to be represented by an Austin immigration attorney during this process. Typically, the process includes the following steps.

  • The sponsor applies. The sponsor is usually an employer or a family member who seeks to bring the applicant to the United States.
  • USCIS review. Immigration services ensure that the application was filed properly and that a visa is available.
  • USCIS biometrics appointment. The applicant must provide fingerprints and a photograph so the government can perform a background check.
  • Interview. During the interview, a government agent will talk to the applicant (and maybe their sponsor) to confirm the information previously provided.
  • Decision. USCIS will determine whether to approve the application or not. If approved, it will provide a green card within a few weeks.

Categorized in:

immigration law, immigration-law,

Last Update: July 3, 2024

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