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Letter to the Editor Re: Deportations Soar; Up 164% Since Tough New Law

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 01020959 (posted Feb. 9, 2001)"

February 9, 2001

Letters to the Editor
The New York Daily News
450 West 33rd Street
New York, NY 10001-2681

To The Editor:

A recent article on your pages focused on one of the provisions of the overly harsh immigration laws Congress passed in 1996 ("Deportations Soar; Up 164% Since Tough New Law," February 7). Unfortunately, the article glossed over the costs to both people and our country’s basic principles.

Six years ago, during the height of anti-immigrant political rhetoric and maneuvering, Congress passed, and President Clinton signed into law, measures that stripped American principles of law, justice and fairness from our nation’s immigration system. As a result of those laws, here in New York, a well-known television evangelist has been threatened with deportation because he tried to bring his under-weight son appetite enhancers purchased over-the-counter in the Dominican Republic. In other states, the INS has brought deportation proceedings against people for pulling a woman’s hair during an argument 12 years ago, for returning $15 worth of baby clothes without a receipt, and for a woman protecting herself against an abusive husband.

What did these laws specifically do? These laws allow people to be deported for one-time minor offenses, let the Immigration and Naturalization Service reach back and deport people for offenses committed years ago, bar immigration judges from considering any mitigating factors, and strip federal courts of their ability to review, let alone overrule, INS deportation decisions. Given those facts, is it any wonder that deportations have skyrocketed?

Long-time legal immigrants are being torn away from their families, their employers and their communities for minor violations that occurred years or even decades ago. These laws lack all sense of proportion. They have eroded cornerstone American values, such as not changing the rules in the middle of the game, having your day in court, and allowing everyone the opportunity for redemption of past mistakes. The loss of those values is immeasurable. We must redeem ourselves as a country by changing the overly harsh 1996 immigration laws.

Sincerely yours,

Jacqueline Baronian

Ms. Baronian, an attorney in the law offices of Cyrus Mehta, is Chairperson of the New York Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.