AILA Strongly Endorses the Immigrant Fairness Restoration Act of 2000

Wednesday,September 27, 2000                       

Matt Tallmer
AILA Public Affairs Manager


WASHINGTON, D.C. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) today strongly endorsed the Immigrant Fairness Restoration Act of 2000, introduced by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Bob Graham (D-FL), and others.

Four years ago, Congress passed a harsh and overbroad immigration bill. Among its more draconian effects, this measure denies people their day in court, denies people a second chance, changes the rules in the middle of the game and tears families apart. The Kennedy/Graham bill would help remedy those un-American effects byrestoring limited discretion to immigration judges to evaluate cases on an individual basis and grant relief to deserving immigrants and their families, provide adequate judicial review of immigration orders and decisions, and ensure that detention does not violate basic human rights and needlessly separate American families. 

“AILA is proud to endorse the Immigration Fairness Restoration Act. It would undo many of the overly harsh provisions of IIRAIRA and, once again, restore such key American principles of law, justice, fairness and family values to our immigration system. Senators Kennedy and Graham deserve credit for standing up for the rights of immigrants and their families,” said Jeanne A. Butterfield, Executive Director of AILA. “The Kennedy/Graham bill accomplishes much of what the recently passed House measure, H.R. 5062, leaves undone. Regrettably, H.R. 5062 would leave in place many of the most harmful aspects of the 1996 laws.”

The Kennedy/Graham bill would restore time-honored principles of American law to our nation’s immigration system:

  • The punishment should fit the crime.  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.
  • Laws should not operate retroactively.  They are unconstitutional in criminal law and should be avoided in the immigration context.
  • Judges must have discretion to make appropriate decisions. 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. 
  • People shouldnot be detained unless they are a danger or a flight risk, and only after a judicial hearing.
  • Judges should review agency 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.

“With Congress set to adjourn shortly, we urge the Senate and White House to act now and pass the Kennedy/Graham bill, thereby restoring balance and key American principles of law, justice, fairness and family values to our immigration system,” Butterfield said.


© 2000, American Immigration Lawyers Association

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 00092859.