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CRS — Unaccompanied Alien Children: Potential Factors Contributing to Recent Immigration

July 21, 2014 Comments off

Unaccompanied Alien Children: Potential Factors Contributing to Recent Immigration (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Since FY2008, the growth in the number of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras seeking to enter the United States has increased substantially. Total unaccompanied child apprehensions increased from about 8,000 in FY2008 to 52,000 in the first 8 ½ months of FY2014. Since 2012, children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (Central America’s “northern triangle”) account for almost all of this increase. Apprehension trends for these three countries are similar and diverge sharply from those for Mexican children. Unaccompanied child migrants’ motives for migrating to the United States are often multifaceted and difficult to measure analytically.

Four recent out-migration-related factors distinguishing northern triangle Central American countries are high violent crime rates, poor economic conditions fueled by relatively low economic growth rates, high rates of poverty, and the presence of transnational gangs.

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CRS — Unaccompanied Alien Children – Legal Issues: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

July 21, 2014 Comments off

Unaccompanied Alien Children – Legal Issues: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Recent reports about the increasing number of alien minors apprehended at the U.S. border without a parent or legal guardian have prompted numerous questions about so-called unaccompanied alien children (UACs). Some of these questions pertain to the numbers of children involved, their reasons for coming to the United States, and current and potential responses of the federal government and other entities to their arrival. Other questions concern the interpretation and interplay of various federal statutes and regulations, administrative and judicial decisions, and settlement agreements pertaining to alien minors. This report addresses the latter questions, providing general and relatively brief answers to 14 frequently asked questions regarding UACs.

CRS — U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians

July 18, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Since the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s, the U.S. government has committed approximately $5 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, who are among the world’s largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid. Successive Administrations have requested aid for the Palestinians in apparent support of at least three major U.S. policy priorities of interest to Congress:

• Preventing terrorism against Israel from Hamas and other militant organizations.
• Fostering stability, prosperity, and self-governance in the West Bank that inclines Palestinians toward peaceful coexistence with Israel and a “two-state solution.”
• Meeting humanitarian needs.

CRS — Qualifications of Members of Congress

July 16, 2014 Comments off

Qualifications of Members of Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

There are three, and only three, standing qualifications for United States Senator or Representative in Congress which are expressly set out in the United States Constitution: age (25 for the House, 30 for the Senate); citizenship (at least seven years for the House, nine years for the Senate); and inhabitancy in the state at the time elected. U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 2, cl. 2 (House); and Article I, Section 3, cl. 3 (Senate). The Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed the historical understanding that the Constitution provides the exclusive qualifications to be a Member of Congress, and that neither a state nor the Congress itself may add to or change such qualifications to federal office, absent a constitutional amendment. Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 522 (1969); U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779, 800-801 (1995); Cook v. Gralike, 531 U.S. 510 (2001).

CRS — Low-Income Assistance Programs: Trends in Federal Spending

July 16, 2014 Comments off

Low-Income Assistance Programs: Trends in Federal Spending (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via University of North Texas Digital Library)

This report examines the spending trends of 10 major need-tested benefit programs or groups of programs: (1) health care from Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); (2) the refundable portion of the health insurance tax credit enacted in the 2010 health care reform law; (3) the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); (4) assisted housing; (5) financial assistance for post-secondary students (Pell Grants); (6) compensatory education grants to school districts; (7) the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); (8) the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC); (9) Supplemental Security Income (SSI); and (10) Family Support Payments. The common feature of need-tested programs is that they provide benefits, services, or funding based on a measure of limited financial resources (income and sometimes assets). However, other than that common feature, the programs differ considerably in their target populations, services, and focus.

CRS — The United Kingdom and U.S.-UK Relations (updated)

July 16, 2014 Comments off

The United Kingdom and U.S.-UK Relations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via University of North Texas Digital Library)

Many U.S. officials and Members of Congress view the United Kingdom (UK) as the United States’ closest and most reliable ally. This perception stems from a combination of factors, including a sense of shared history, values, and culture, as well as extensive and long-established cooperation on a wide range of foreign policy and security issues. In the minds of many Americans, the UK’s strong role in Iraq and Afghanistan during the past decade reinforced an impression of closeness and solidarity.

CRS — Recently Expired Charitable Tax Provisions (“Tax Extenders”): In Brief

July 15, 2014 Comments off

Recently Expired Charitable Tax Provisions (“Tax Extenders”): In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via University of North Texas Digital Library)

On April 3, 2014, the Senate Finance Committee voted to report the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act (S. 2260), which would extend a set of expired tax provisions through the end of 2015. These and other temporary tax provisions that are regularly extended for one or two years are often referred to as “tax extenders.” This report briefly summarizes the temporary charitable tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013 and are being considered for extension. The report also discusses the economic impact of these charitable tax provisions.

Four charitable tax provisions are discussed in this report: (1) the enhanced charitable deduction for contributions of food inventory; (2) tax-free distributions from individual retirement accounts for charitable purposes; (3) basis adjustment to stock of S corporations making charitable contributions of property; and (4) special rules for contributions of capital gain real property for conservation purposes. There are other “tax extender” provisions that may affect tax-exempt entities discussed in other CRS products. Specifically, CRS Report R43510, Selected Recently Expired Business Tax Provisions (“Tax Extenders”) , by Jane G. Gravelle, Donald J. Marples, and Molly F. Sherlock includes a discussion of the modification of tax treatment of certain payments to controlling exempt organizations.1 Extender provisions related to the low-income housing tax credit, which may be relevant for tax-exempt organizations, are discussed in CRS Report R43449, Recently Expired Housing Related Tax Provisions (“Tax Extenders”): In Brief, by Mark P. Keightley.

CRS — State and Local “Sanctuary” Policies Limiting Participation in Immigration Enforcement

July 15, 2014 Comments off

State and Local “Sanctuary” Policies Limiting Participation in Immigration Enforcement (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via University of North Texas Digital Library)

While the power to prescribe rules as to which aliens may enter the United States and which aliens may be removed resides solely with the federal government, the impact of alien migration—whether lawful or unlawful—is arguably felt most directly in the communities where aliens settle. State and local responses to unlawfully present aliens within their jurisdictions have varied considerably, particularly as to the role that state and local police should play in enforcing federal immigration law. Some states, cities, and other municipalities have sought to play an active role in immigration enforcement efforts. However, others have been unwilling to assist the federal government in enforcing measures that distinguish between residents with legal immigration status and those who lack authorization under federal law to be present in the United States. In some circumstances, these jurisdictions have actively opposed federal immigration authorities’ efforts to identity and remove certain unlawfully present aliens within their jurisdictions.

Although state and local restrictions on cooperation with federal immigration enforcement efforts have existed for decades, there has reportedly been an upswing in the adoption of these measures in recent years. Moreover, the nature of these restrictions has evolved over time, particularly in response to the development of new federal immigration enforcement initiatives like Secure Communities, which enable federal authorities to more easily identify removable aliens in state or local custody. Entities that have adopted such policies are sometimes referred to as “sanctuary” jurisdictions, though there is not necessarily a consensus as to the meaning of this term or its application to a particular state or locality.

This report discusses legal issues related to state and local measures that limit law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The report begins by providing a brief overview of the constitutional principles informing the relationship between federal immigration authorities and state and local jurisdictions, including the federal government’s power to preempt state and local activities under the Supremacy Clause, and the Tenth Amendment’s proscription against Congress directly “commandeering” the states to administer a federally enacted regulatory scheme.

CRS — The Peace Corps: Current Issues (updated)

July 10, 2014 Comments off

The Peace Corps: Current Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Founded in 1961, the Peace Corps has sought to meet its legislative mandate of promoting world peace and friendship by sending American volunteers to serve at the grassroots level in villages and towns in all corners of the globe. As of end September 2013, about 7,209 volunteers were serving in 65 nations.

In 2014, the 113th Congress will consider the President’s annual funding request for the Peace Corps, possible efforts to reauthorize the Peace Corps, and related issues.

CRS — Access to Broadband Networks: The Net Neutrality Debate (updated)

July 10, 2014 Comments off

Access to Broadband Networks: The Net Neutrality Debate (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

As congressional policy makers continue to debate telecommunications reform, a major point of contention is the question of whether action is needed to ensure unfettered access to the Internet. The move to place restrictions on the owners of the networks that compose and provide access to the Internet, to ensure equal access and non-discriminatory treatment, is referred to as “net neutrality.” While there is no single accepted definition of “net neutrality,” most agree that any such definition should include the general principles that owners of the networks that compose and provide access to the Internet should not control how consumers lawfully use that network, and they should not be able to discriminate against content provider access to that network.

A major focus in the debate is concern over whether it is necessary for policy makers to take steps to ensure access to the Internet for content, services, and applications providers, as well as consumers, and if so, what these steps should be. Some policy makers contend that more specific regulatory guidelines may be necessary to protect the marketplace from potential abuses which could threaten the net neutrality concept. Others contend that existing laws and policies are sufficient to deal with potential anti-competitive behavior and that additional regulations would have negative effects on the expansion and future development of the Internet.

CRS — Upcoming Rules Pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: The Spring 2014 Unified Agenda

July 10, 2014 Comments off

Upcoming Rules Pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: The Spring 2014 Unified Agenda (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, as amended) was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. As is often the case with legislation, the ACA granted rulemaking authority to federal agencies to implement many of its provisions. The regulations issued pursuant to the ACA and other statutes carry the force and effect of law. Therefore, scholars and practitioners have long noted the importance of rulemaking to the policy process, as well as the importance of congressional oversight of rulemaking. For example, one scholar noted that the “Constitution’s grant of legislative power to Congress encompasses a responsibility to ensure that delegated authority is exercised according to appropriate procedures.” Congressional oversight of rulemaking can deal with a variety of issues, including the substance of the rules issued pursuant to congressional delegations of authority and the process by which those rules are issued.

Having a sense of what rules agencies are going to issue and when they are going to issue those rules can help Congress conduct oversight over the regulations that are issued pursuant to the ACA. One way in which Congress can identify upcoming ACA rules is by reviewing the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, which is published by the Regulatory Information Service Center (RISC), a component of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), for the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).

CRS — Congressional Liaison Offices of Selected Federal Agencies (updated)

July 10, 2014 Comments off

Congressional Liaison Offices of Selected Federal Agencies (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This list of about 200 congressional liaison offices is intended to help congressional offices in placing telephone calls and addressing correspondence to government agencies. In each case, the information was supplied by the agency itself and is current as of the date of publication. Entries are arranged alphabetically in four sections: legislative branch; judicial branch; executive branch; and agencies, boards, and commissions.

Specific telephone numbers for correspondence, publications, and fax transmissions have been provided for each applicable agency. When using fax, it is important to include the entire mailing address on a cover sheet, as many of the listed fax machines are not directly located in the liaison offices.

A number of agency listings include an email address. When emailing agencies please remember to include your name, affiliation, phone number, and return address, to ensure a speedy response. Users should be aware that email is not a confidential means of transmission.

This report was produced for congressional offices only. It will be updated frequently.

National Funding of Road Infrastructure

July 10, 2014 Comments off

National Funding of Road Infrastructure
Source: Law Library of Congress

This report examines the funding of roads and highways in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England and Wales, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, South Africa, and Sweden. It provides a description of the infrastructure in the jurisdiction, information on the ownership and responsibility of the roads, and taxes or other ways of collecting money to fund the nation’s infrastructure. If applicable, a discussion of reforms or new initiatives is examined.

CRS — Domestic Federal Law Enforcement Coordination: Through the Lens of the Southwest Border

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Domestic Federal Law Enforcement Coordination: Through the Lens of the Southwest Border (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Federally led law enforcement task forces and intelligence information sharing centers are ubiquitous in domestic policing. They are launched at the local, state, and national levels and respond to a variety of challenges such as violent crime, criminal gangs, terrorism, white-collar crime, public corruption, even intelligence sharing. This report focuses on those task forces and information sharing efforts that respond to federal counterdrug and counterterrorism priorities in the Southwest border region. More generally, the report also offers context for examining law enforcement coordination. It delineates how this coordination is vital to 21st century federal policing and traces some of the roots of recent cooperative police endeavors.

CRS — The U.S. Secret Service: History and Missions (updated)

July 8, 2014 Comments off

The U.S. Secret Service: History and Missions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The U.S. Secret Service has two missions—criminal investigations and protection. Criminal investigation activities have expanded since the inception of the Service from a small anticounterfeiting operation at the end of the Civil War, to now encompassing financial crimes, identity theft, counterfeiting, computer fraud, and computer-based attacks on the nation’s financial, banking, and telecommunications infrastructure, among other areas. Protection activities, which have expanded and evolved since the 1890s, include ensuring the safety and security of the President, Vice President, their families, and other identified individuals and locations.

CRS — Aliens’ Right to Counsel in Removal Proceedings: In Brief

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Aliens’ Right to Counsel in Removal Proceedings: In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The scope of aliens’ right to counsel in removal proceedings is a topic of recurring congressional and public interest. This topic is complicated, in part, because the term right to counsel can refer to either (1) the right to counsel of one’s own choice at one’s own expense, or (2) the right of indigent persons to counsel at the government’s expense. A right to counsel can also arise from multiple sources, including the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), other federal statutes, and federal regulations. Further, in some cases, courts have declined to recognize a “categorical” right to counsel, applicable to all aliens in removal proceedings, but have found that individual aliens could potentially have a right to counsel on a case-by-case basis because of their specific circumstances.

CRS — Membership in the United Nations and Its Specialized Agencies

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Membership in the United Nations and Its Specialized Agencies (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Since the United Nations (U.N.) was established in 1945, the U.S. government, including many Members of Congress, has maintained an ongoing interest in the criteria and process for membership in the United Nations and its specialized agencies. The United Nations currently has 193 member states and two observer non-member states—the Holy See (Vatican) and “Palestine.”

CRS — Foreign Holdings of Federal Debt

July 7, 2014 Comments off

Foreign Holdings of Federal Debt (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Federal debt represents, in large measure, the accumulated balance of federal borrowing of the U.S. government. The portion of gross federal debt held by the public consists primarily of investment in marketable U.S. Treasury securities. Investors in the United States and abroad include official institutions, such as the U.S. Federal Reserve; financial institutions, such as public banks; and private individual investors.

CRS — Salaries of Members of Congress: Recent Actions and Historical Tables (updated)

July 7, 2014 Comments off

Salaries of Members of Congress: Recent Actions and Historical Tables (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Congress is required by Article I, Section 6, of the Constitution to determine its own pay. Prior to 1969, Congress did so by enacting specific legislation. From 1789 through 1968, Congress raised its pay 22 times using this procedure. Members were initially paid per diem. The first annual salaries, in 1815, were $1,500. Per diem pay was reinstituted in 1817. Congress returned to annual salaries, at a rate of $3,000, in 1855. Specific legislation may still be used to raise Member pay, as it was most recently in 1982, 1983, 1989, and 1991; but two other methods—including an automatic annual adjustment procedure and a commission process—are now also available.

CRS — Regular Vetoes and Pocket Vetoes: An Overview

July 7, 2014 Comments off

Regular Vetoes and Pocket Vetoes: An Overview (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The veto power vested in the President by Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution has proven to be an effective tool for the chief executive in his dealings with Congress. Since the founding of the federal government in 1789, 37 of 44 Presidents have exercised their veto authority a total of 2,564 times. Congress has overridden these vetoes on 110 occasions (4.3%). Presidents have vetoed 83 appropriations bills, and Congress has overridden 12 (14.5%) of these vetoes.

President Barack H. Obama has vetoed two bills since taking office in 2009: H.J.Res. 64, an FY2010 appropriations measure, and H.R. 3808, the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act of 2010. These vetoes occurred during the 111th Congress. President Obama has not vetoed any legislation since then.

This report will be updated as events warrant.

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