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Latin American Studies: Legal Material

An introductory guide to doing research in Latin American studies in the UCSD Library

Additional Resources

See Also the Library Research Guide on Law

*Please note that specific country pages nested beneath the Country Information and Reports Tab on this Research Guide also point to legal resources particular to particular countries.

Finding Primary and Secondary Source Material related to US and International Law

There are three main types of US institutions overseeing the creation and defense of law, and consequently there are three main legal categories of US Law. 

Statutory Law (law generated by federal and state congresses/legislatures which becomes part of Federal and State Constitutions and Legal Codes)

Case Law (Summaries of Court cases establishing legal precedents based on interpretations of statutory law)

Regulatory Law (issued by the Federal Department of Justice or an equivalent State agency that are overseen by Attorney Generals)

In addition, there are large bodies of secondary literature discussing all three types of laws and related interpretations and legal process found in law journals.

Each form of US law can be found in different resources, and some of these include useful content for international law.

The Westlaw Database includes content in all forms of law – but is especially useful for Statutory and Case Law.  This is because it includes annotations about when portions of statutes or case law have been

The recommended sources to find information related to federal regulations are the website or the HeinOnline database.  Both provide access to the Federal Register (which is published daily and therefore documents proposed regulations and changes/updates to those regulation) as well as the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) which publishes approved and adopted (i.e. final regulations only) annually.  However, it is important to note that there is now an electronic edition of the CFR that is updated daily based on final recommendations documented in the Federal Register.  Westlaw includes the CFR only, not the Federal Register.  

In addition to its primary source content (laws themselves), Westlaw includes important secondary source material, including reference tools such as encyclopedias and journal articles published in law reviews.  Hein Online provides access to additional periodical material.

HeinOnline also provides very useful additional content:

  • curated guides to legal material on particular topics (such as Civil Rights and Social Justice) 
  • International legal material, including international constitutions and an extensive collection of law review articles dedicated to discussion of international laws.

The linked Essay may also be helpful to understand current (2018-) Logistics and Realities of Regulatory Reforms to Deter Immigrants from Soliciting and Securing Asylum (focused on Central American migrants, but applicable to many other ethnic and national individuals and groups)

Accessing Latin American Laws and Legal Materials

A particularly helpful database for all types of legislation and law (including international) is 

Hein Online

For international law, search in the categories: International Law and International Treaties and Agreements or select one of the following databases: History of International Law and World Constitutions Ilustrated and subject specific databases such as Religion and Law, Slavery in America and the World, and Women and the Law

The following research guides can also help with Legal research in individual Latin American Countries:


[Latin America] LLMC Digital 

Click on the "Search Collections" Box -- from the Basic Search you can click on "other countries" to select, or you can click on advanced search and narrow that way. If you select a country and aren't sure about the name of the legislation, you can try searching by the country or state (province) or by a keyword such as criminal or civil or comercial, etc.

[Mexico] (US) Library of Congress Research Guide 

[Mexico] University of Wisconsin Research Guide 

[Mexico] NYU Research Guide 

[Mexico] Arizona State U. Research Guide 

[Mexico] U Texas Research Guide 

[Mexico] AALL Mexican Law and Legal Research Guide 

Provided by the Latin American Law Interest Group (AALL)

[Mexico] SEGOB Leyes y Reglamentos Federales 

Provided by Mexico's Secretaria de Gobernación