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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification

Andorra Bruno
Specialist in Immigration Policy

The 113th Congress is expected to take up comprehensive immigration reform. Some of the most difficult immigration policy questions on the table concern unauthorized immigration and unauthorized employment. Today’s discussions about these issues build on the work of prior Congresses. In 1986, following many years of debate about unauthorized immigration to the United States, Congress enacted the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). This law sought to address unauthorized immigration, in part, by requiring all employers to examine documents presented by new hires to verify identity and work authorization and to complete and retain employment eligibility verification (I-9) forms. Ten years later, in the face of a growing illegal alien population, Congress attempted to strengthen the employment verification process by establishing pilot programs for electronic verification, as part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA).

The Basic Pilot program (known now as E-Verify), the first of the three IIRIRA employment verification pilots to be implemented and the only one still in operation, began in November 1997. Originally scheduled to terminate in November 2001, it has been extended several times. It is currently authorized until September 30, 2015, in accordance with P.L. 112-176.

E-Verify is administered by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS/USCIS). The program has been growing in recent years. On February 16, 2013, there were 432,256 employers enrolled in E-Verify, representing more than 1,300,000 hiring sites. E-Verify is a primarily voluntary program, but there are some mandatory participation requirements. Among them is a rule, which became effective on September 8, 2009, requiring certain federal contracts to contain a new clause committing contractors to use E-Verify.

Under E-Verify, participating employers submit information about their new hires (name, date of birth, Social Security number, immigration/citizenship status, and alien number, if applicable) from the I-9 form. This information is automatically compared with information in Social Security Administration and, if necessary, DHS databases to verify identity and employment eligibility.

Legislation on electronic employment eligibility verification may be considered in the 113
th Congress as part of a comprehensive immigration reform bill or as separate, stand-alone legislation. In weighing proposals on electronic employment verification, Congress may find it useful to evaluate them in terms of their potential impact on a set of related issues: unauthorized employment; verification system accuracy, efficiency, and capacity; discrimination; employer compliance; privacy; and verification system usability and employer burden.

Date of Report: March 19, 2013
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: R40446
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

U.S. Immigration Policy: Chart Book of Key Trends

Ruth Ellen Wasem
Specialist in Immigration Policy

This report is a chart book of selected immigration trends that touch on the main elements of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). Most policymakers agree that the main issues in CIR include increased border security and immigration enforcement, improved employment eligibility verification, revision of legal immigration, and options to address the millions of unauthorized aliens residing in the country. The report offers snapshots of time series data, using the most complete and consistent time series currently available for each statistic. The key findings and elements germane to the data depicted are summarized with the figures. The summary offers the highlights of key immigration trends.

The United States has a history of receiving immigrants, and these foreign-born residents of the United States have come from all over the world.

  • Immigration to the United States today has reached annual levels comparable to the early years of the 20th century. 
  • Immigration over the last few decades of the 20th century was not as dominated by three or four countries as it was earlier in the century, and this pattern has continued into the 21st century. 
  • The number of foreign-born residents in the United States is at its highest level in U.S. history, reaching 40 million in 2010. 
  • Foreign-born residents of the United States made up 12.9% of the U.S. population in 2010, approaching levels not seen since the proportion of foreignborn residents reached 14.8% in 1910. 

Legal immigration encompasses permanent immigrant admissions (e.g., employment-based or family-based immigrants) and temporary nonimmigrant admissions (e.g., guest workers, foreign students). The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) contains the provisions detailing the requirements for admission (permanent and temporary) of foreign nationals and the eligibility rules for foreign nationals to become U.S. citizens.

  • In FY2011, 1.1 million aliens became U.S. legal permanent residents (LPRs). Of this total, nearly 65% entered on the basis of family ties. 
  • The pool of people potentially eligible to immigrate to the United States as LPRs each year typically exceeds the worldwide level set by the INA. 
  • Most of the 4.4 million approved petitions pending at the close of FY2012 were family members of U.S. citizens. 
  • After falling from 7.6 million in FY2001 to 5.0 million in FY2004, temporary visa issuances reached 7.5 million in FY2011. 
  • Generally, all of the temporary employment-based visa categories have increased since FY1994. Although there was a dip during the recent recession, the number of employment-based temporary visas increased in FY2010 and FY2011. 

Immigration control encompasses an array of enforcement tools, policies, and practices to secure the border and to prevent and investigate violations of immigration laws. The INA specifies the
grounds for exclusion and removal of foreign nationals as well as the documentary and entry-exit controls for U.S. citizens and foreign nationals.

  • U.S. State Department denials of petitions for LPR visas have increased in recent years, and prior removals from the United States or past illegal presence in the United States has become the leading ground of inadmissibility. 
  • U.S. Border Patrol apprehensions of foreign nationals between ports of entry fell to a 40-year low of 327,577 in FY2011. 
  • The number of employers enrolled in the E-Verify employment eligibility verification system grew from 5,900 at the close of FY2005 to 418,000 by the end of FY2012. These data indicate that approximately 7% of U.S. employers were participating by the close of FY2012. 
  • A total of $10.5 million in administrative fines was imposed on employers who engaged in unlawful employment in FY2011—a figure that exceeds the level of total fines imposed over the entire period from FY2000 through FY2009. 
  • Formal removals grew from 30,039 in 1990 to 391,953 in FY2011. 
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) identifies many more potentially removable aliens than it arrests (i.e., places in removal proceedings). 
  • The number of criminal aliens removed from the United States increased from 73,298 in FY2001 to 188,382 in FY2011. 

The three main components of the unauthorized resident alien population are (1) aliens who enter the country surreptitiously without inspection, (2) aliens who overstay their nonimmigrant visas, and (3) aliens who are admitted on the basis of fraudulent documents.

  • Estimates based on the March Supplement of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) indicate that the unauthorized resident alien population rose from 3.2 million in 1986 to 12.4 million in 2007, before leveling off at 11.1 million in 2011. 
  • The latest estimates indicated that 33% of the 11.5 million unauthorized resident aliens in 2011 had entered from 2000 to 2010. 

For those who seek more complete analyses of the issues, this report cites Congressional Research Service (CRS) products that discuss the policies underlying the data presented in each of the figures.

Date of Report: March 7, 2013
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: R42988
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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Unauthorized Alien Students: Issues and “DREAM Act” Legislation

Andorra Bruno
Specialist in Immigration Policy

The 2012 presidential election results reignited interest in comprehensive immigration reform generally and in legislation known as the “DREAM Act,” in particular. DREAM Act legislation would enable certain unauthorized aliens to legalize their status. The name DREAM Act derives from the bill title, Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, but it refers more broadly to measures to provide immigration relief to unauthorized students, whether or not particular bills carry that name. DREAM Act proposals to provide relief to unauthorized aliens who were brought, as children, to live in the United States by their parents or other adults have been controversial in recent years, but historically they have enjoyed a broad base of support in Congress.

Unauthorized aliens in the United States are able to receive free public education through high school. They may experience difficulty obtaining higher education, however, for several reasons. Among these reasons is a provision enacted in 1996 that prohibits states from granting unauthorized aliens certain postsecondary educational benefits on the basis of state residence, unless equal benefits are made available to all U.S. citizens. This prohibition is commonly understood to apply to the granting of “in-state” residency status for tuition purposes. Unauthorized alien students also are not eligible for federal student financial aid. More broadly, as unauthorized aliens, they typically are not legally allowed to work and are subject to being removed from the country.

Multiple DREAM Act bills have been introduced in recent Congresses to address the unauthorized student population. Most have proposed a two-prong approach of repealing the 1996 provision and enabling some unauthorized alien students to become U.S. legal permanent residents (LPRs) through an immigration procedure known as cancellation of removal. While there are other options for dealing with this population, this report deals exclusively with the DREAM Act approach in light of the considerable congressional interest in it.

In the 111
th Congress, the House approved DREAM Act language as part of an unrelated bill, the Removal Clarification Act of 2010 (H.R. 5281). However, the Senate failed, on a 55-41 vote, to invoke cloture on a motion to agree to the House-passed DREAM Act amendment, and the bill died at the end of the Congress. The House-approved language differed in key respects from earlier versions of the DREAM Act. Bills to legalize the status of unauthorized alien students (S. 952, H.R. 1842, H.R. 3823, H.R. 5869) were again introduced in the 112th Congress.

On June 15, 2012, in the absence of congressional action on DREAM Act legislation, the Obama Administration announced that certain individuals who were brought to the United States as children and meet other criteria would be considered for relief from removal. Under a memorandum issued by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on that date, these individuals would be eligible for deferred action for two years, subject to renewal, and could apply for employment authorization. DHS began accepting requests for consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals (or DACA, as the program is known) in August 2012.

DREAM Act legislation may be taken up in the 113
th Congress. It may be considered as part of a comprehensive immigration reform bill or as a separate, stand-alone measure. As of this writing, no DREAM Act bills have been introduced in the 113th Congress.

Date of Report: February 27, 2013
Number of Pages: 32
Order Number: RL33863
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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Immigration Provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

William A. Kandel
Analyst in Immigration Policy

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) includes provisions to assist foreign nationals who have been victims of domestic abuse. These provisions, initially enacted by Congress with the Immigration Act of 1990 and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994, afford benefits to abused foreign nationals and allow them to self-petition for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status independently of the U.S. citizen or LPR relatives who originally sponsored them. Congress reauthorized VAWA with the Battered Immigrant Women Protection Act of 2000, which also created the U visa for foreign national victims of a range of crimes—including domestic abuse—who assisted law enforcement. A second reauthorization in 2005 added protections and expanded eligibility for abused foreign nationals. Authorization for appropriations for the programs under VAWA expired in 2011.

The 112
th Congress passed two bills, S. 1925 and H.R. 4970, reauthorizing most VAWA programs, among other provisions. Despite containing some related immigration provisions, H.R. 4970 differed in substantive ways from S. 1925. It did not extend protections to new groups to the same extent as S. 1925 and included more restrictions with the purpose of curtailing immigration fraud. Most notably, it maintained the annual number of U visas at its current limit of 10,000, in contrast with S. 1925, which would have increased the number to 15,000. To fund the increase in U visas, S. 1925 included a revenue provision that created a “blue slip” procedural complication. Negotiations stalled between the chambers, and neither bill was enacted into law.

In the 113
th Congress, the Senate passed S. 47, as amended on February 12, 2013. In the House, H.R. 11 was referred to committee. The VAWA-related immigration provisions, similar in both bills, are comparable to those found in S. 1925 from the previous Congress. On February 22, 2013, the House Committee on Rules issued its Committee Print 113-2 for S. 47—Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, Text of Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute.

S. 47/H.R. 11 and the Committee Rules bill all would maintain the annual number of U visas at 10,000, thereby eliminating the associated “blue slip” procedural complication. The bills would extend VAWA coverage to derivative children of deceased self-petitioning parents and provide for public charge waivers. All three bills would include protections for petitioning children who “age out” of eligibility, unknowing bigamy victims, and foreign nationals under age 18. They all would increase annual reporting requirements and permit information sharing of VAWA data for national security purposes.

Regarding differences between the three bills, S. 47/H.R. 11 would amend current law by including “stalking” in the definition of criminal activity covered under the U visa. S. 47/H.R. 11 would require more extensive background checks and demand more consistent self-disclosures for U.S. citizen petitioners of alien fiancés or fiancées to provide the latter with greater information about potential abuse. The two bills would impose additional penalties for marriage broker violations as well as false or incomplete representations by U.S. clients to foreign nationals to foster dating or matrimonial relationships. The Rules Committee bill does not contain these provisions.

The Rules Committee bill would eliminate U visa certification eligibility for U visa petitioners described as likely to be helpful to law enforcement. It includes a provision that would grant the Attorney General the authority to go beyond the record of conviction to ascertain if domestic violence crimes constitute crimes of violence when determining if an individual is deportable. S. 47/H.R. 11 do not contain these provisions.

Two potential concerns for Congress have been emphasized regarding the immigration provisions of VAWA. The first is whether the proposed VAWA reauthorization provides sufficient relief to foreign nationals abused by their U.S. citizen or LPR sponsoring relatives. Advocates for battered foreign nationals suggest that additional provisions are needed to assist this population in obtaining legal and economic footing independently of their original sponsors for legal immigrant status. Critics of expanding immigration, however, question the extent to which these provisions may increase the number of legal immigrants, thereby incurring costs to U.S. taxpayers.

The second related concern is the degree to which VAWA provisions unintentionally facilitate immigration fraud. This may occur through what some perceive as relatively lenient standards of evidence to demonstrate abuse; as the unintended result of processing procedures between the District Offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which adjudicate most immigration applications, and the USCIS Vermont Service Center, which adjudicates VAWA petitions; or as an unintended consequence of the structure of current law. While some suggest that VAWA provides opportunities for dishonest and enterprising foreign nationals to circumvent U.S. immigration laws, empirical evidence offers minimal support for these assertions.

Date of Report: Febrary 27, 2013
Number of Pages: 40
Order Number: R42477
Price: $29.95

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