What was the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility (IIRIRA) Act?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Congressional Research Service (CRS), in a Nov. 21, 1997 report entitled "Central American Asylum Seekers: Impact of 1996 Immigration Law," offered:
"In enacting the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996 (Division C of P.L. 104-208), Congress rewrote provisions in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that pertain to the circumstances under which certain aliens subject to expulsion from the United States may become legal residents. How aliens are affected by these statutory changes is being played out most vividly in the cases of Central Americans who first came to seek asylum the United States in the 1980s. As many as 300,000 Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans are potentially affected by these revisions. The Attorney General has the discretionary authority under the INA to grant relief from deportation and adjustment of status to otherwise illegal aliens who meet a certain set of criteria. This avenue, formerly known as suspension of deportation, is now called cancellation of removal. In addition to changing the name, IIRIRA established tighter standards for obtaining this relief. IIRIRA also established a cap on the number who could receive cancellation of removal — 4,000 each fiscal year."
Siskind Susser Bland LLC, an international immigration law firm based in Tennesee, in a section entitled "IIRIRA 96 - A Summary of the New Immigration Bill" on its website (accessed May 14, 2007), offered the following information:
"On September 30, 1996, President Clinton signed the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 ('IIRIRA 96'). The new law represents the completion of a legislative process which began shortly after the Republican Party assumed majority party status in the House and Senate after the 1994 mid-term elections. Originally, there were two sets of immigration bills in each house of Congress - one covering illegal immigration and one covering legal immigration. The legal immigration bill would have drastically slashed the number of family and employment immigrants permitted into the US. The illegal immigration bill primarily covered border enforcement and deportation. The bills were later combined in each house only to be split again after a heated grass roots lobbying effort.
The logic behind combining the bills was that the more controversial legal immigration bill would have an easier time passing of tied to the much more popular illegal immigration bill. Finally, the legal immigration bills in each house were defeated, though a number of provisions affecting legal immigration ended up in the illegal immigration bill. After numerous delays including a threatened Senate filibuster and presidential veto over the issue of barring illegal immigrant children access to public schools, the bill was bundled with a crucial budget bill needed to prevent a shutdown of the government. Last minute compromises were worked out over some of the most controversial provisions including deleting the provisions affecting school children and the bill became law."
Gerald L. Neuman, JD, PhD, J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law at Harvard Law School, in a June 2000 Harvard Law Review essay entitled "Jurisdiction and the Rule of Law After the 1996 Immigration Act," offered the following:
"The federal courts are currently grappling with complex issues of statutory interpretation and constitutional law raised by the jurisdictional provisions of the immigration legislation enacted in 1996... The government's arguments in these cases represent a fundamental assault on the writ of habeas corpus as a constitutionally guaranteed remedy for detention by executive authority. The particular legislation may involve detention for purposes of the removal of alien[s], but the implications of the controversy are much broader and potentially threaten citizens as well. Even within its limited context... the resolution of this dispute will have important consequences for the preservation of the rule of law as applied to noncitizen residents of the United States..."
Jonathan L. Hafetz, JD, Counsel of the Justice Program for the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, in a June 1998 Yale Law Journal essay entitled "The Untold Story of Noncriminal Habeas Corpus and the 1996 Immigration Acts," explained:
"In 1996, Congress passed and the President signed... the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which seek to curtail judicial review of final orders of deportation for legal permanent residents convicted of certain enumerated criminal offense. The acts threaten to entrust the deportation process from beginning to end to the executive branch without any opportunity for judicial review, notwithstanding the practical and symbolic importance of judicial review in this context. The acts thus raise jurisdictional issues of great importance, and they portend a sea change in immigration law that endangers the judiciary's role in safeguarding the rights of all individuals. As a consequence of the acts, courts arguably may be foreclosed from reviewing a range of legal questions, including whether the acts' elimination of waivers of deportation under... the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) for aliens convicted of certain criminal offenses applies retroactively.
Prior to 1996, aliens found deportable could apply for relief... under which immigration judges took into account a variety of favorable elements in determining whether to grant a waiver of deportation. [...] numerous provisions of the IIRIRA apply to noncriminal aliens. Several district courts have already found that the IIRIRA narrows judicial review of the INS'S denial of a noncriminal alien's attempt to stay deportation pending a motion to reconsider his deportation order. In addition, the IIRIRA seeks to eliminate judicial review over all denials of discretionary relief except asylum, including denials of suspensions of deportation based on the alien's continuous physical presence in the United States, his good moral character, and the degree of hardship that would result from deportation... Subsequently, numerous legal permanent residents sought judicial review of their deportation orders by filing habeas actions in federal district court."