As the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) turn 20 in April, Humans Rights Watch issued a statement last week, denouncing the unjust immigration laws and calling for the United States Congress to repeal these measures. HRW adds these provisions have placed thousands of individuals at the brunt of aggressive detentions, deportations, and unfair family separations.
According to Alison Parker, co-director of Human Rights Watch’s U.S. program, “The US appears to be coming to grips with the harm caused by its 90s-era crime laws. These 90s-era immigration laws also deserve serious scrutiny and reconsideration.”
Effects of AEDPA and IIRIRA
The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), were signed into law under the Clinton administration in April 24, 1996 and September 1996 respectively.
AEDPA became law in the wake of 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, expanding the grounds for arresting and deporting undocumented immigrants, and even long-term immigrants with legal permanent resident status. It was the first piece of U.S. legislation of its kind to give rise to more common and more widely used aggressive deportation procedures.
On the other hand, IIRIRA was passed to expand government control over the country’s immigration policy, effectively eliminating critical defenses against removal and placing thousands of immigrants—both undocumented and legal permanent residents—under detention and removal. IIRIRA greatly expanded the range of offenses for potential criminal conviction, some of which were minor and nonviolent charges HRW believes should never have led to deportation. Moreover, IIRIRA also placed several obstacles between people fleeing persecution in their native countries and applying for asylum in the United States.
A Long List of Cases
Over the last 20 years, Human Rights Watch has recorded a string of cases involving individuals and families of long-term permanent residents torn apart by the aggressive provisions of these laws, which have brought about a swath of criminal convictions effectively making impacted individuals eligible for deportation.
Human Rights Watch adds the laws have also encouraged a widespread problem of unjust immigrant detention through provisions requiring extended detention periods during removal proceedings. This in turn has affected thousands of immigrants charged with drug or criminal offenses, but have already served their time in the detention system.
Human Rights Watch also pointed out the issue of expedited border deportations, as authorized by AEDPA and IIRIRA, effectively denying thousands of asylum seekers the opportunity to make claims for protection against persecution in their home countries. HRW has also learned of several instances of U.S. Border Patrol agents intentionally ignore the attempts of asylum seekers to seek protection.
Human Rights Watch offers a long list of cases documenting the harm these laws have brought to many immigrant families in this post.
To learn more about AEDPA and IIRIRA and its consequences on U.S. immigration policy, talk to the legal team of Lyttle Law Firm. Call us today at (512) 215-5225.