Congressional Report Tackles the Issue of Undocumented Aliens and Their Perceived Access to Government Benefits
Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) March 2, 2012 – Foreign nationals who reside in the United States without legal status are barred from receiving most federal benefits, yet the popular perception is that undocumented immigrants are receiving public benefits en masse.
Other than a small set of emergency programs and services, undocumented immigrants are not eligible for any federal grants, loans, contracts, professional or commercial licenses, retirement or health benefits, public housing, food assistance, unemployment benefits, or any other services paid for by the United States government.
“A ‘hot button’ issue in the immigration debate is the perception that foreign nationals can be in the U.S. without status and still gain public benefits,” said Dallas immigration lawyer Stewart Rabinowitz.
A recent Congressional Service Report on this subject cited research from the Pew Hispanic Center that estimated there are more than 11 million people living in the United States without legal status, and significantly, that there are approximately 16.6 persons living in families in which the head of household or the spouse is undocumented. The report cites mixed status families – families which have either a U.S. citizen child or U.S. citizen children, or a spouse who may be a permanent resident. There are estimated to be 4.5 million U.S. citizens who presently live in mixed status families.
Controversy arises regarding what policies should best address mixed status families, such as policies designed to deny public benefits to the ineligible and yet avoid the unintended consequences of denying federal benefits to U.S. citizens. In addition, other issues relate to how broadly federal public benefits should be interpreted when the subject is refunds or tax credits.
These issues are all thorny and complicated. “In an immigration-hostile environment, the simple and harsh Alabama HR56 style solutions seem to have far-reaching, unintended consequences,” Rabinowitz said. “Thus, tightening eligibility proof, if enacted, will likely result in denying benefits to U.S. citizens.”
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