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Immigration Law: Federal Legislative History


Legislative history can be extraordinarily useful for determining the intent behind a law, whether you're trying to determine why the law was changed or what Congress meant by a specific phrase. Legislative history is typically found in documents created during the legislative process, including reports, hearings, records of debates, and different versions of the bill. 

Where does Legislative History fit in the Hierarchy?

Legislative history is a primary source that provides guidance, but it should not be cited as legal authority. Courts can only look to the legislative history of a statute to “explain the meaning and purpose of a provision whose text is genuinely ambiguous.” Sherfel v. Newson, 768 F.3d 561, 569 (6th Cir. 2014).  The documents of legislative history for tax law research purposes are listed below, in the order of their importance:

1. Congressional Committee Reports / Conference Reports
2. Text of earlier or alternative versions of a bill
3. Floor Debates (Congressional Record)
4. Statements or testimony at Committee Hearings
5. Committee Prints
6. Presidential Signing Statements

Committee Reports & Prints

Federal Legislative History and Pending Bills

House and Senate Documents and Reports

The complete US Serial Set is available in the Franklin County Law Library, through Lexis Advance, on the Library public computers. It is listed under the source title Congressional Documents 1777-present (U.S. Serial Set).

Presidential Signing Statements