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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Immigration Legislation and Issues in the 112th Congress

Andorra Bruno, Coordinator
Specialist in Immigration Policy

Despite President Obama’s calls for a national conversation on immigration reform, immigration has not been a front-burner issue for the 112th Congress. The 112th Congress has, however, taken legislative action on some measures containing provisions on a range of immigration-related topics. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 (P.L. 112-74) contains provisions on border security, visa security, tourist visas, and refugees. It also includes limited language on other issues, such as employment eligibility verification and the H-2B temporary worker visa. P.L. 112- 58 concerns military service-based immigration benefits; P.L. 112-127 concerns border tunnels. P.L. 112-130 makes Israeli nationals eligible for E-2 treaty investor visas.

Both the House and the Senate have passed different bills (H.R. 4970, S. 1925) to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The House has passed, and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has reported, legislation (H.R. 915) that would provide statutory authority for the Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) initiative. In addition, the House has passed bills that would make changes to permanent employment-based and familybased admissions (H.R. 3012) and to reauthorize a temporary worker category for foreign nurses (H.R. 1933). It has also passed legislation that would address border security at and between ports of entry (H.R. 1299) and student visa reform (H.R. 3120). The Senate has passed S. 3245, which would extend the authorization for four immigration programs (EB-5 visa program, E-Verify, Conrad State program, and special immigrant religious worker program) for three years, until September 30, 2015. Authorization extension language for these programs is also included in the Senate version of the FY2013 DHS Appropriations act, as reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee (S. 3216) and, in the case of E-Verify, in the House-passed FY2013 DHS Appropriations act (H.R. 5855).

In other action on immigration-related legislation, the House Judiciary Committee has reported or ordered reported bills on electronic employment eligibility verification (H.R. 2885), immigrant detention (H.R. 1932), visa security (H.R. 1741), and the diversity visa (H.R. 704). The House Committee on Homeland Security and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs both have ordered reported different DHS Authorization bills (H.R. 3116, S. 1546). Bills on victims of trafficking have been reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee (S. 1301) and ordered reported by the House Foreign Affairs Committee (H.R. 2830). The House Foreign Affairs Committee has also ordered reported a bill with provisions on Vietnamese refugees (H.R. 1410). The House Natural Resources Committee has reported bills addressing border enforcement activities on federal lands (H.R. 1505, which also was included as an amendment to H.R. 3116) and foreign residents of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a U.S. territory in the Pacific (H.R. 1466). In addition, House and Senate committees and subcommittees have held hearings on a number of immigration-related issues.

This report discusses immigration-related issues that have received legislative action or are of significant congressional interest in the 112th Congress. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations are addressed in CRS Report R41982, Homeland Security Department: FY2012 Appropriations, and, for the most part, are not covered here.

Date of Report: September 11, 2012
Number of Pages: 36
Order Number: R42036
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