Immigration law, illegal immigrants, Arizona illegal immigrants and undocumented persons are phrases that has gained much national media attention in recent times as the government battles over immigration reform in order to resolve the immigration issues in the United States. Immigration, illegal immigration and illegal immigrants are popular and controversial topics in the United States today especially in Arizona and the Greater Phoenix Region.
Illegal Immigration can be defined as entering the United States and residing within its border without lawful admission and the proper documentation authorizing a person to do so. A person who has participated in illegal immigration is not an illegal immigrant but an undocumented person because that person lacks lawful admission and the proper documents authorizing his or her stay within the United States border.
The United States immigration law requires that all non-citizens participate in legal immigration. Legal immigration requires lawful admission and the proper documentation of a non-citizen relocating to the United States in order to ensure that the person is authorized to reside within the United States borders.
According to the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA), any person residing in the United States is either a United States citizen or a citizen of another country. If a person is a citizen of another country, then that person is either a legal immigrant or a nonimmigrant. A legal immigrant is a person who has been admitted to lawfully reside in the United States as a lawful permanent resident (LPR). A lawful permanent resident is also known as a green card holder. Immigrants also include those who have not been lawfully admitted into the United States. These people are properly known as undocumented persons or undocumented immigrants and not “illegal immigrants” as they are popularly called all across the United States. A nonimmigrant is a person with authorization to enter the United States such as a person with a visa of temporary intent which includes tourist visa, student visa, temporary worker, etc. However, a nonimmigrant who entered legally, can also become an undocumented person (not illegal immigrant) by overstaying the visa duration. When this happens, the person who previously entered legally does not become an illegal immigrant but an undocumented person.
Granted that some crimes have been committed by undocumented persons, it must also be noted that a very high percentage of undocumented persons are law abiding people. The phrase “illegal immigrants” tend to negatively conjure (in the minds of most) a person who has committed a crime. To clarify, a person known as an illegal immigrant is not necessarily a criminal who has committed a criminal offense but a person who has participated in illegal immigration by entering the United States without lawful admission.
In the United States, a person can become an undocumented person or “illegal immigrant” (as popularly known) under two instances of illegal immigration:
– The first instance is by entering the country without having the proper documentation. This happens when a person enters the country without inspection by immigration official at the border or when a person enters the country using a fraudulent document. For instance, this is when someone sneaks through the U.S. border without inspection or when a person uses false identification to enter the United States.
-The second instance is by remaining in the United the States without having valid documentation and authority to do so. As previously stated, this typically occurs when a person enters the country legally with all the proper documentation such as a tourist visa, student visa but remains in the country after the visa has expired.
In either situations, such a person is properly known as an undocumented person and not an illegal immigrant because participating in illegal immigration does not make a person an illegal immigrant but an undocumented person.
Therefore the phrase “illegal immigrant” is incorrect when describing a person who is properly known to be an undocumented person due to his or her participation in illegal immigration.