There is a broad-based consensus that the U.S. immigration system is broken.
This consensus erodes, however, as soon as the options to reform the U.S.
immigration system are debated. Substantial efforts to comprehensively reform
immigration law failed in the 109th and 110th Congresses. Whether and how
Congress will address immigration reform in the midst of historically high
levels of unemployment and budgetary constrictions is difficult to project.
The number of foreign-born people residing in the United States is at the
highest level in U.S. history and has reached a proportion of the U.S.
population—12.5%—not seen since the early 20th century. Of the 38 million
foreign-born residents in the United States, approximately 16.4 million are
naturalized citizens. The remaining 21.6 million foreign born residents are noncitizens.
According to the latest estimates by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS),
about 10.8 million of the 21.6 million noncitizens were unauthorized aliens
living in the United States in January 2010, down from a peak of 11.8 million
in January 2007. Some observers and policy experts maintain that the presence
of millions of unauthorized residents is evidence of inadequacies in the legal
immigration system as well as failures of immigration control policies and
This Compendium contains reports focusing on immigration and border security
laws and policy including border control and visa security; legal immigration;
documentation and verification; interior immigration enforcement; integration,
status, and benefits; and refugees and other humanitarian populations. It
delineates the debate in the 112th Congress for a range of issues, including
border security, criminal aliens, worksite enforcement, employment eligibility
verification, permanent admissions, temporary workers, legalization, noncitizen
eligibility for federal benefits, birthright citizenship, and the role of state
and local law enforcement in enforcing immigration laws. Current circumstances
may sharpen the social and business cleavages as well as narrow the range of
options. Nonetheless, selected immigration issues are likely to be a major
concern for the 113th Congress, even if legislative action on such contentious
issues appears daunting.
Date of Report: November 6, 2012
Number of Pages: 383 Order Number: C-12003 Price: $79.95
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