Immigration Law: Statutes vs. Regulations vs. Memos vs. Tweets

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Originally published by AILA.

Immigration rules, regulations and policies may be confusing and often published in several different manners. Do you know the difference among them?

STATUTES are laws passed by a Legislature, usually by Congress. They are binding law and can create new rights or obligations. The Immigration and Nationality Act, for instance, is a Statute.

REGULATIONS are rules setting Forth how the government will apply relevant Statutes. All Regulations have the force of law. When implemented a regulation is published in the Federal Register and given a section in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Most immigration regulations are found in chapters 8 (Department of Homeland Security), 20 (Department of Labor), and 22 (Department of State) of the CFR.

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POLICY MEMOS are announcements from a government agency that set its policies and provide guidance as to how the agency will apply relevant Statutes and Regulations. Policy memos usually are vetted through h multiple rounds of review and revision before they are released. So even though they do not have a force of law, they are trustable sources of information.

Recently, the government has made numerous policy announcements using TWEETS, however unlike statutes and regulations, Tweets do not have the force of law. Unlike policy memos, government Tweets do not appear to go through a vetting process. Government policies announced via Tweet cannot go beyond the scope of the related statutes and regulations, and the government cannot make new laws or create new rights or obligations via Tweet. Occasionally, agencies make announcements, such as office closures, via Twitter and do expect these messages to be accepted as official announcements.

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