Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 21me0002 (posted Sep. 25, 2000)"
Advocates Continue to Press to Fix Harsh 1996 Laws
The House of
Representatives yesterday passed legislation, H.R. 5062, recognizing the
harshness and over breadth of the 1996 immigration laws.
The legislation, introduced by Representative Bill McCollum and other
supporters of the 1996 laws, passed unanimously.
“The unanimous passage of this bipartisan legislation in the House
sends an important message that this year we can and should restore fairness to
our immigration laws,” said Jeanne Butterfield, Executive Director of the
American Immigration Lawyers Association.
H.R. 5062 fails to offer solutions to many of the most harmful aspects of the
1996 laws. It would leave in place many of the retroactive provisions
that changed the rules midstream and that penalize minor offenders as severely
as serious criminals. Thus, many
long-term legal immigrants would continue to face automatic deportation without
any possibility of relief and be detained at taxpayer expense.
individuals already have been torn from their loved ones over the last four
years. Every day that these laws go unchanged more immigrants are
put in jeopardy of being permanently separated from their children, spouses,
parents,” said Ms. Butterfield. “The
Senate must act to ensure that meaningful reform is enacted this year.” Reform
should respect these time-honored principles:
punishment should fit the crime: proportionality should be restored to the
immigration laws. A person
who never spent a night in jail should not be treated the same as someone
who has served decades in prison. An
offense that is expunged or vacated under state criminal law should not be
treated as a conviction under the immigration law.
should not operate retroactively. They
are unconstitutional in criminal law and should be avoided in the
to make appropriate decisions should be given back to immigration judges.
In most cases involving long-term immigrants, an immigration judge should be
able to evaluate the nature of the offense, the extent of one's ties to the
U.S., evidence of rehabilitation, and the severity of the hardship
deportation may cause U.S. citizen and legal resident family members.
should be used only when a person is found to be a danger or a flight risk
after an individualized custody hearing before an immigration judge.
fair hearings and judicial review of immigration decisions. The decision
to deport someone is momentous, especially for refugees fleeing persecution
and legal immigrants who have lived most of their lives in this country.
is running out. Congress and the
White House must act now to pass legislation that brings balance to the
immigration laws, corrects their retroactive application, restores discretionary
relief for deserving individuals, abandons mandatory detention, and respects due
process principles so fundamental to our American justice system.