A Comprehensive Overview of Immigration Laws in Texas

Immigration laws in Texas are notoriously tough. Learn more here from an Austin immigration attorney.

Basics of Immigration Laws in Texas


The term immigration law refers to the federal government’s rules that determine who is allowed to enter the country as a student, refugee, temporary worker, or permanent resident, for what duration, and their rights and responsibilities, in addition to the naturalization process for those who want to become U.S. citizens. Outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the immigration policies also control how the proceedings for detention and removal are conducted in cases where foreign nationals enter without permission, overstay their visit duration, or lose their legal status.

Staying informed on Texas’ immigration rules and regulations can help immigrants avoid unnecessary altercations with the law, and generally make them feel more confident as they go about their daily activities. If you are facing trouble with the law, it is crucial to work with an immigration attorney in Austin on any legal immigration concerns, recent charges, or detainments against you. At Michael G. Murray P.A., we provide comprehensive, results-driven legal advice and assistance to individuals and families in various immigration-related matters across the state of Texas, and we are here to help you, too.

What Are the Immigration Laws in Texas, United States?


Below you will find information on Texas rules on immigration checks by workplace employers, E-verify requirements, educational institutions, law enforcement privileges, immigration-based restrictions on public benefits, various aspects of the immigration law, and more.


Immigration Status and Educational Institution Requirements

U.S. law provides that anyone in the country, whether documented or unauthorized, has the same privilege to attend primary, secondary, and tertiary education. States must also provide children, regardless of their immigration status, with equal access to public education. 

There is no federal law that prohibits colleges in the U.S. from admitting undocumented students. And in Texas, residents lacking documentation are still allowed to pay in-state tuition at universities. To be eligible, a student must have gotten a GED or a degree from a private or public high school in Texas, must have resided in Texas for at least three years during high school, and must offer their colleges an affidavit stating that at the earliest opportunity, they will apply to become permanent residents. 


Employment Checks

The federal employment rules require all employers to verify that a potential employee is eligible to work in the U.S. Employment checks involve receiving proof of a person’s documentation as a legal foreign national or U.S. citizen and completing Form 1-9 within three days of hiring an employee. 

Though the existing U.S. laws on anti-discrimination forbid discrimination based on citizenship status, it is illegal to employ undocumented immigrants. In Texas, former Governor Rick Perry ordered that the E-Verify internet-based system overseen by the Department of Homeland Security and the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) be used to ensure all prospective new hires are eligible to work in the country.

There are several kinds of visas available to foreign nationals who intend to come into the country to work for a limited duration or permanently. Consult with an experienced employment-based immigration lawyer at Michael G. Murray P.A. for direction on the best visa to obtain for your unique situation and guidance through the application process.

Public Benefits Restrictions and Federal Immigration Laws in Texas


Low-income families in Texas with children who are 18 or younger get aid to pay for necessities such as food through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). However, only legal residents and naturalized U.S. citizens qualify to receive TANF benefits as federal law prohibits undocumented immigrants from receiving such benefits. Non-U.S. citizens are also ineligible for other national benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). However, regardless of their status, immigrants are eligible for services considered vital for protecting life or safety. 

It is worthy of note that with a green card, a foreign national becomes a permanent resident and is legally eligible to receive these public benefits and also qualifies for citizenship in three to five years. An Austin immigration lawyer at Michael G. Murray P.A. can help you in the process of getting a green card, and also guide you towards naturalization and citizenship.

Illegal Immigration in Texas


Through the Department of Homeland Security, the government can remove an individual who lacks a legal reason for being in the country.

“Removal” is the technical name for deportation, and individuals can be removed for various reasons, such as the fact that they are foreign nationals convicted of committing a crime in the U.S., or that they entered the country without authorization, or that their valid non-immigrant visa with which they entered the country has expired. Even something as simple as operating a vehicle without a driver’s license can result in removal. If removed, the government may prevent the individual from ever returning, even for a visit.

There are specific mechanisms the government may apply to try to remove an undocumented immigrant. It could be through expedited removal, reinstatement of removal, or more formal removal proceedings in front of immigration judges. An immigration lawyer may be able to challenge the government claim successfully.

At Michael G. Murray P.A. Law Firm, we are aggressive defenders of immigrant rights, our attorneys have extensive knowledge of the immigration law and are highly experienced with removal and deportation proceedings. If you currently face the possibility of removal, our team will advocate on your behalf to preserve your right to live and work in the country.

Sanctuary Cities Versus the New Immigration Regulations in Texas


Many states and cities in the U.S. have “sanctuary” jurisdiction. This allows them to discourage cooperation with the federal government on enforcement of immigration law by following the principle of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in an attempt to reduce fears of deportation and family separation. Many cities and counties in the Texas State followed this non-cooperation policy before they were banned by the Texas Senate Bill 4, signed into law in May 2017 by Governor Greg Abbott.

This immigration policy banned sanctuary cities in the state, and authorized law enforcement officers to ask an arrested or detained individual about their immigration status. It also requires police officers to aid the government with immigration enforcement. If arrested, an immigrant in Texas has the right to a lawyer. At Michael G. Murray P.A, we recommend that you don’t discuss your immigration status with anyone but your lawyer, so please contact us immediately if you are being questioned by officials.

Law Enforcement and Immigration Policy in Texas


Several states, cities, and local government entities in the country are a part of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ACCESS Program under Section 287 (g) of the constitution. This program serves as a partnership between ICE and the state and local police agencies, giving them the authority to function as immigration law enforcement agents. Also known as the “Memorandum of Agreements (MOAs) or the “287(g) contracts,” this agreement means the police can help the government in identifying and removing foreign nationals who are subject to removal/deportation from the country.

What’s more, under a federal program known as “Secure Communities,” the ICE office requires that all arrestees by the police are fingerprinted, and the results go through a federal database that checks the person’s immigration status and criminal record. Some cities have refused to comply with the Secure Communities provisions, but the Austin Police Department currently abides by its rules. If you are arrested, you should contact a lawyer immediately.

Contact a Top-Rated Immigration Law Firm in Austin, Texas


The national immigration process and its always changing laws can be tedious and daunting. Whether you are bringing loved ones into the country, or you need assistance with acquiring business-related green cards or employment-based visas or a strong defense against removal from the country, then you need to know your rights, and retaining a highly experienced attorney is in your best interests. Michael G. Murray, P.A. has over 15 years of experience in immigration law and two years as a public defender. We approach cases with a tenacity that gets positive results while engaging with clients compassionately. 

Our law firm represents clients throughout Austin and elsewhere in Texas, and you can trust us to work tirelessly to review your case, help you understand your legal options, answer all your questions, and get you your desired results. You can call us at (512) 215-4407 or complete our online contact form to request a free consultation.