TV Documentary Highlights Violations of American Principles Against Immigrants

November 7, 2000

CONTACT: Matt Tallmer, Public Affairs Manager
202-216-2404;    Fax: 202-371-9449


WASHINGTON, D.C. –An investigative television documentary set to air this week demonstrates in graphic terms the human costs of the overly harsh 1996 immigration laws. “American Dream, American Nightmare,” to be broadcast Friday, November 10 at 10p.m. (ET/PT) and 9p.m. (CT) on A&E as part of the show “Investigative Reports,” tells the stories of four legal permanent residents threatened with deportation for minor offenses committed years ago.

One of those profiled is Ybrenia Gomez, who immigrated from the Dominican Republican nearly 20 years ago. Gomez, who works as an aide in a New York City nursing home, was detained by the INS for months and is being threatened with deportation because of one brush with the law. Fifteen years ago, she was arrested for having two pain killers and two penicillin pills which a friend had given her for a toothache. Because of that single incident, for which she paid a fine, this hard-working grandmother is considered a criminal alien and has been ordered deported.

“American Dream, American Nightmare” shows that the 1996 immigration laws deny people their day in court by refusing to allow immigration judges to review or consider such important factors as an immigrant’s length of time in the United States, ties to the community, or rehabilitation.  They deny basic principles of law because federal courts cannot review, let alone correct, decisions of the Immigration and Naturalization (INS).  They deny people a second chance, because people are being deported for minor offenses for which they already have paid their debt to society.  They change the rules in mid-game by retroactively expanding the definition of crimes for which a person can be deported.  They tear families apart, because many people at risk of being deported have U.S. citizen spouses and children who depend on them.  Finally, the laws hit the wrong targets by deporting legal permanent residents with long established ties to their communities.

“This program dramatically proves what we have been saying for four years: that the 1996 laws violate key American principles of law, justice and fairness,” said Jeanne A. Butterfield, Executive Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “After viewing this show, every American who cares about fairness and justice should call upon Congress to fix these laws and restore fairness and balance to our immigration system. At a bare minimum, the Senate during the upcoming lame-duck session should pass H.R. 5062, as the House already has done, to help some families who are suffering as a result of these indefensible laws.”

Butterfield explained that H.R. 5062 would allow some immigrants who face mandatory deportation to appear before an immigration judge and request discretionary relief from deportation. H.R. 5062 also would address some of the retroactivity of the 1996 laws by restoring the right of some long-term legal permanent residents to apply for relief. In addition, a legal permanent resident who would be eligible for relief under H.R. 5062, but already has been deported, will be given the opportunity to apply for readmission to the United States solely in order to apply for discretionary relief.

“Countless individuals over the past four years have been torn from their loved ones.  Each day that these laws go unchanged, more immigrants are put into jeopardy of being permanently separated from their U.S. citizen children, spouses, and parents.  The Senate must ensure that meaningful reform is enacted this year,” Butterfield said.



Cite as AILA Doc. No. 00110758.