Immigration Law Violates American Principles of Law

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, July 28, 1999

Matthew Tallmer
Public Affairs Manager
Office:  202-216-2404
Fax:  202-371-9449

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 Association.

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."

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 99072858.