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The Story Of The Whole Act

by Pravinchandra Patel

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is the most basic source material for the practice and administration of immigration law. Because it constitutes the fundamental congressional mandate and occupies a place of primary importance in the immigration field, BCIS and U.S. consular officials, as well as immigration attorneys, refer to it on a daily basis. Having the INA available in a book that can be easily used as a quick reference tool is essential to immigration practitioners and government officials. Up until 1986, however, only the Government Printing Office (GPO) published such a handy bound book.

Less than 20 years ago, immigration attorneys used a small bound Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), published by the GPO identified by its dark brown book cover in the late 1970's and early 1980's. It had not been updated for a number of years, even though a number of amendments were made to the INA since its publication. As a result, attorneys around the country would have a number of paste-up jobs in the book, with many original pages torn, ragged, and falling apart. Indeed, pages and paste-up notes would be frequently flying across the floor as an individual flipped through the bound and unattached pages. Even more aggravating was the fact that even the additions placed in its appropriate sections were not up-to-date. There were always some small parts in any section or in a paragraph of any long section, that may have been amended that had not yet been added.

I had handled a copy of that brown book many times, and I always wondered why no updated version existed. Then, in late1986, when IRCA (the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986) was passed, I decided to publish an updated version myself, partly out of frustration from using the same old, non-usable book and partly out of an entrepreneurial spirit. I realized that what was once merely an inconvenience that resulted in aggravation and frustration from using an old version had become a virtual impossibility in post-IRCA times. The changes made to the INA by IRCA were too many and too complex to accommodate by inserting loose pages. The birth of the first perfect-bound updated and complete version of the INA was published in 1987, by my company - Legal Research Bureau.

Publishing the book was a complex process. The GPO published brown book was entirely scanned, in an era when scanners were not as advanced and did not produce a perfect image. Two people proofread the scanned material, word by word. A list and copies were compiled of all the public laws that contained immigration provisions passed since the publication of the brown book including IRCA. Then, I began to methodically update the INA, which took several months to complete. The IRCA provisions were particularly challenging and the most time-consuming. I worked on it a page at a time, a few pages per day. The first batch of bound books was ready just in time for its debut at the annual AILA convention in 1987.

While we were working on the book, I explained the importance of the new book to a number of people by saying that attorneys and others would no longer have to be inconvenienced and suffer any frustration from having an outdated book with loose amendments, not knowing if the provision was current. My son suggested that The Whole Act accurately captured its importance. It contained the INA in its entirety, with all the changes incorporated in the INA text itself, valid as of January 1, 1987. Thus, instead of what was formerly a highly fragmented version that was almost impossible to use, the new publication in the market provided an up-to-date version of the INA, all neatly bound in one volume. That was 16+ years ago. Now, many other law publishers have come out with their versions, including most recently AILA.

Indeed, the benefits of an updated book with a topical index and other useful features are enormous to both the immigration bar and immigration officers/examiners. Besides being a readily available handy sourcebook that enables one to find correct and updated INA provisions at one place, it entirely obviates what was once the source of utter frustration and aggravation for all. Now one can focus on the practice of law using correct statutory provisions, without having to worry about or finding loose pages, or wondering if a specific statutory provision used or relied upon is up-to-date.

In the last 25 years, immigration practitioners have experienced oceanic changes both in form and substance, not to mention the basic nomenclature changes from INS to BCIS and from DOJ to DHS. Today, immigration practice has begun to embrace the electronic age. Our company has remained ahead of the curve by including hundreds of annotations in the 2002 edition of The Whole Act, a feature that is continued in the current 2003 edition, which contains as many as 560+ annotations. No other book in the market has this particular feature. Besides, the book has 690+ footnotes and 48 Appendices containing other immigration-related provisions, which are not made part of the INA itself. The Whole Act also contains a user-friendly topical Index.We have also included a separate 7-page Index to 48 Appendices at the end, just to make it easier for users to find any particular provision in an Appendix. Thus, the Book (The Whole Act - INA) now stands fully annotated, indexed, footnoted, and supplemented by Appendices. It has made the lives of those practicing immigration law much easier. Each year, I have the privilege of publishing a new edition of The Whole Act, as well as other useful references that the immigration bar and BCIS offices around the country use.

Looking back on my life as a man of 65+ years with just about a quarter century in the practice of immigration law, I am pleased to know that I had a small but significant pioneering contribution in updating and publishing the INA in its entirety and that my small contribution to the field of immigration law has spawned the proliferation of many other compiled versions of the INA. Immigration practitioners and immigration practice, alike, have all come a long way in the last 25 years.

About The Author

Pravinchandra J. Patel, Esq. can be reached at 1554 Sherwood Drive, East Meadow, New York 11554; (516) 565-2665; email: For over two decades, he has authored/compiled and regularly updated source materials for fellow immigration attorneys through his immigration books, see The opinion and information expressed in this article is not intended to provide guidance in any specific case or to any individual. Rather, it is intended for general information, and is subject to change in the future, if necessary, to reflect any subsequent contrary policy decision or guidance by BCIS.

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