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Wednesday, February 15, 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, however, has taken legislative action on some measures containing provisions on a range of immigration-related topics. The Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (P.L. 112- 10) terminated a special refugee provision known as the Lautenberg amendment. This amendment was subsequently re-enacted for FY2012 by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 (P.L. 112- 74). P.L. 112-74 also contains provisions on border security and other issues. P.L. 112-58, a narrow immigration law, concerns military service-based immigration benefits.

The House has passed the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2011 (H.R. 3012), which would make changes to permanent employment-based and family-based admissions. It also has passed legislation to reauthorize the H-1C temporary worker category for nurses coming to work in medically underserved areas in the United States (H.R. 1933).

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). Both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee have reported bills on victims of trafficking (H.R. 2830, S. 1301), and the House Natural Resources Committee has reported a bill concerning foreign residents of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a U.S. territory in the Pacific. 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: January 12, 2012
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: R42036
Price: $29.95

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Friday, February 3, 2012

Immigration: Noncitizen Eligibility for Needs-Based Housing Programs


Alison Siskin
Specialist in Immigration Policy

Maggie McCarty
Specialist in Housing Policy


The issue of noncitizen eligibility for federally funded programs, including needs-based housing programs, is a perennial issue in Congress. Noncitizen eligibility varies among the needs-based housing programs administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), such as Public Housing, Section 8 vouchers and project-based rental assistance, homeless assistance programs, housing for the elderly (Section 202) and the disabled (Section 811), the HOME program, and the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) program. Two laws govern noncitizen eligibility for housing programs: Title IV of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (Welfare Reform) and Section 214 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1980, as amended.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) explicitly states that aliens, unless they are qualified aliens, are not eligible for “federal public benefits,” a term defined in the law to include public and assisted housing. Under the statute, unauthorized (illegal) aliens do not meet the definition of qualified aliens, and as a result, they are ineligible for “federal public benefits.” However, PRWORA did not make those who had been receiving housing benefits before the date of enactment (August 22, 1996) ineligible for housing benefits. Likewise, PRWORA exempts certain types of programs that are usually thought of as emergency programs from the alien eligibility restrictions. HUD has not issued guidance implementing the PRWORA provisions.

Section 214 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1980 states that only certain categories of noncitizens are eligible for benefits under the housing programs covered by Section 214. Unauthorized aliens are not eligible for benefits under Section 214. The aliens eligible for housing assistance under Section 214 are similar to those eligible for federal public benefits under PRWORA, with some exceptions.

There is uncertainty surrounding how the eligibility requirements of PRWORA and Section 214 interact, leading to conflicting interpretations of the categories of noncitizens eligible for housing programs. A provision addressing this issue was considered during the FY2003 appropriations debate, but not included in the final bill.

There has been congressional interest regarding the implementation of the eligibility requirements for housing programs. Specifically, questions have been raised as to the documentation requirements placed on both citizens and noncitizens in determining eligibility for housing programs. The documentation requirements are dependent on (1) the housing program, (2) the citizenship status of the applicant, and (3) the age of the applicant.



Date of Report: January 2
3, 2012
Number of Pages:
15
Order Number: RL3
1753
Price: $29.95

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Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.