[Excerpt] The number of foreign-born people residing in the United States (40 million) is at the highest level in our history and, as a portion of the U.S. population, has reached a percentage (12.9%) not seen since the early 20th century. Of the foreign-born residents in the United States, approximately one-third are speculated to be unauthorized residents (often characterized as illegal aliens).
The degree to which unauthorized resident aliens should be accorded certain rights and privileges as a result of their residence in the United States, along with the duties owed by such aliens given their presence, remains the subject of debate in Congress. Included among the specific policy areas that spark controversy are due process rights, tax liabilities, military service, eligibility for federal assistance, educational opportunities, and pathways to citizenship. This report focuses on the policy and legislative debate surrounding unauthorized aliens’ access to federal benefits.