Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 38me9018 (posted Jul. 28, 1999)"
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, July 28, 1999
Public Affairs Manager
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congress should renew our tradition of laws, justice,
fairness and family values by changing 1996 immigration laws, according to
Jeanne Butterfield, Executive Director of the American Immigration Lawyers
Butterfield joined with representatives of the U.S. Catholic Conference, the
American Bar Association, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the
Anti-Defamation League, and many other participating organizations, at a July 28
press conference advocating major reform of 1996 immigration laws.
"These laws violate fundamental American principles. They deny people their
day in court; deny people a second chance; change the rules in mid-game; tear
families apart; and hit the wrong targets," Butterfield said. "People are being
deported with no appeal because courts cannot review INS decisions. Americans
believe in second chances and redemption, but IIRAIRA deports people who since
have led exemplary lives due to long-ago minor offenses and youthful
indiscretions. Because the laws are retroactive, people are being deported for
offenses that weren't even grounds for deportation before 1996. These immigrants
already have paid their debts to society, but are being deported anyway."
Butterfield noted that many have been in the U.S. since they were children,
are married and their children and spouses are U.S. citizens. When these people
are deported, family members face the heartbreak decision of leaving the U.S.,
their country of birth, or remaining here, often without a breadwinner, and
being forced to go on welfare.
"The law was supposed to keep dangerous criminals from entering and remaining
in the United States. Instead, Congress went too far and now requires the INS to
deport any non-citizen who has ever made a mistake, no matter how minor that
mistake may be and no matter how long ago it was committed, and no matter what
contributions they have made since," Butterfield commented. "These draconian
provisions fly in the face of America's tradition as a nation of immigrants that
values due process and fairness. That's why we're calling on Congress to
drastically amend the 1996 immigration laws."