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What is the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)?


The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is the federal law governing almost all immigration matters. It prohibits employers from knowingly hiring undocumented workers and requires employers to verify their employees' identity and work eligibility as specified on the I-9 form. In addition, it prohibits job discrimination based on immigration status. INA's antidiscrimination provisions intend that all employees and job applicants are treated equally, whether or not they are U.S. citizens. INA prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of a potential worker's national origin or citizenship status. Under INA, workers must prove both identity and work authorization, but there are several combinations of legally acceptable documents from which they can choose. These combinations are listed on the back of the I-9 form, which must be completed for every employee, regardless of national origin, including U.S. citizens. An employer's failure to verify identity and employment eligibility is punishable by fine. Congress established the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), a component of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, to enforce the antidiscrimination provisions of INA and to educate the public about immigration-related employment discrimination. Since 1987, OSC has received more than 6,000 charges of discrimination based on national origin or citizenship status. Since 1987, OSC has collected almost $2 million in back pay to compensate victims of employment discrimination and has assessed more than $1.3 million in civil penalties for violations of the antidiscrimination provisions. Most new immigrants come from Latin America and Asia; therefore Latinos and Asians, both native-born citizens and newcomers, are the most likely victims of job discrimination based on citizenship status or national origin. OSC serves all U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, refugees, and asylees. Recent cases have included long-time U.S. citizens who suffered immigration job related discrimination.