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Administrative Law Research: Immigration Concentration Class Site

Federal Agencies

Federal agencies are just like state agencies! As discussed before in the context of Arizona agencies, an agency is a part of the executive branch of government that has been created by a legislature to carry out the legislative will. Legislatures often enact statutes that create a broad framework for an area of law and then create an agency with the power to make regulations to fulfill the purpose of the laws and fill in the details, enforce the laws and regulations, and adjudicate disputes.

Remember the state agency example of the Arizona State Board of Optometry? Federal agencies are just like state agencies and there are a lot of them. 

There is a long list of federal agencies available in Wikipedia.

Federal Agencies

USCIS Example

In 2003, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to replace the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). USCIS is a sub-agency of DHS. Here is the agency's mission statement on its website - "U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values."

Organic Act/Enabling Act

An organic act (sometimes called an enabling act) is a law that create a government agency and defines the original scope of its authority. The organic act/enabling act that created the USCIS is codified in the U.S.C. at 6 U.S.C.A. § 271 et. seq. 6 U.S.C.A. § 271 created the agency and gave it some powers. (Note: Many of its other powers come from delegations of power from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Attorney General.)

Rulemaking Powers

Federal agencies and their powers are complicated! They are not like state agencies which normally have a simple enabling act which creates the agency and gives it powers. On the federal level, sometimes the main agency has all the rulemaking power which it can delegate to sub-agencies. This is true of the DHS which has the power to enact regulations about immigration and naturalization according to 8 USC 1103(a)(3). However, DHS lets USCIS share the responsibility for enacting regulations, so USCIS creates the regulations which are then enacted under the authority of DHS. 

Enforcement and Adjudication

USCIS has the power to adjudicate a number of issues. Some of these powers come directly from Congress and some from DHS delegation. For example, 6 USC 271(b) gives USCIS the power to adjudicate appeals involving naturalization petitions and asylum applications, and DHS delegates the power to hear appeals for approximately 50 other immigration case types such as immigration petitions by alien entrepreneurs and orphans.

Authority for Regulations

Just like on the state level, the power to enact regulations comes from a legislative grant of authority to an agency.

For each proposed or final regulation (aka rule) in the Federal Register, the agency must list the U.S.C. sections that give it the authority to enact the regulation.

This information is included for each Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) section in Westlaw and for each Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part (usually) in the e-CFR.

Westlaw Example

The authority for 8 C.F.R. 312.1 is listed as 8 U.S.C. 1103, 1423, 1443, 1447, 1448.

e-CFR Example

In the e-CFR, the authority for 8 C.F.R. 312.1 is listed as 8 U.S.C. 1103, 1423, 1443, 1447, 1448 for the whole of Part 312 (and not for individual CFR sections).