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What illegal immigrants are 'lawfully present?'

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 30th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

If passed, the immigration bill introduced to the Senate earlier this month would allow illegal immigrants to access state and local welfare benefits immediately. Lawmakers are working hard to close up this potentially damaging loophole as the financial impact of letting potentially millions of immigrants onto state and local public assistance could overwhelm these programs' budgets.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Senate Budget Committee ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions is credited with discovering this loophole in the bill and many others. He's circulating a memo detailing the gaps in the bill this week.

"The Gang of Eight made a promise that illegal immigrants will not be able to access public benefits," Sessions said in a statement. "We already know that, once granted green cards and ultimately citizenship, illegal immigrants will be able to access all public benefit programs at a great cost to taxpayers. We have, however, identified a number of loopholes that would allow illegal immigrants to draw public benefits even sooner than advertised."

If allowed to pass, the 11 million illegal immigrants would be legalized within six months, when Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano submits her border security plan to Congress. In brief, illegal immigrants would immediately be eligible for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status, making them legal to live and work in the country.

As Sessions points out, "state laws frequently extend benefits to anyone 'lawfully present' in the U.S."

Sessions and his research team highlight the fact that the Department of Health and Human Services brief that illustrates how the only requirement many state and local governments have with regard to immigrant access to public benefits is that they are "lawfully present."

What does "lawfully present," a legal term mean?

According to page 91 of the bill, all illegal immigrants granted legalized RPI status would legally be considered "lawfully present." That section reads as follows:

"(4) TREATMENT OF REGISTERED PROVISIONAL IMMIGRANTS.-A noncitizen granted registered provisional immigrant status under this section shall be considered lawfully present in the United States for all purposes while such noncitizen remains in such status, except that the noncitizen-

"(A) is not entitled to the premium assistance tax credit authorized under section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986;

"(B) shall be subject to the rules applicable to individuals not lawfully present that are set forth in subsection (e) of such section; and          

"(C) shall be subject to the rules applicable to individuals not lawfully present that are set forth in section 1402(e) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (42 U.S.C. 18071)."

"Therefore, when those here illegally who are unable to support themselves are legalized, much of the immediate fiscal burden will fall on state and local governments," Sessions' staff wrote in the memo.

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