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Understanding how the government works: The Executive and Judicial Branches

Given the attention the are given by the worldwide media, the president of the United States is the part of the federal government immigrants are likely the most familiar with.

As U.S Citizen and Immigration Services indicates, the president of the U.S. is in charge of the Executive branch of the government. In short, while the Legislature is charged with making laws, the Executive carries out the laws, or "executes" them. It sees to it that laws are enforced.

But the president is tasked with a variety of other duties as well, as the responsibilities that come with the office are considerable. For instance, the president establishes the policies the country will adhere to, proposes laws to Congress, makes appointments to various government positions and is also in charge of the armed forces. This is where the term "Commander in Chief" comes from.

Just as senators and representatives are elected to office, the president is voted by the American people as well. However, unlike legislators, presidents serve four years and are eligible to run for a second term. However, unlike legislators, presidents can only run for two terms. Congressional members can run for office as many times as they would like, provided they have the votes.

The last part of the federal government is the Judicial Branch. This is the portion of government that interprets the law. In other words, the judicial branch reviews laws to make sure that they are accurate and do not conflict with the tenets of the U.S. Constitution.

While the Legislature is composed of one body and the Executive is personified by the president, the Judicial branch is made up of a nine-person body. This group is called the Supreme Court and the people in the body are called "justices."

Throughout the year, these justices review laws that are proposed at the federal or state level and determine whether the laws uphold or conflict with the U.S. Constitution. Lawyers present the arguments for and against the law and justices determine whether to uphold or overrule a law by voting.

Unlike congressional members and the president, Supreme Court justices are appointed to their positions by the president. The Legislature – namely, the Senate – then votes on whether to confirm or deny the president's appointment. If the justice is confirmed, they serve on the court for the rest of their lives but can resign if they so choose.

This brief history of how the government works may help immigrants establish a better knowledge of the country they send money from – the United States of America.

Helpful links:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
The White House
The U.S. Supreme Court
MSNBC.com – Inside the White House

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