Major Change in 1996 Immigration Law
Failed to Distinguish Minor from Major Crimes
Until 1988, noncitizens could be deported from the United States only after a hearing before an immigration judge in which the non-citizen could raise one of several bases for canceling their deportation orders. These included the extreme hardship deportation would cause to the noncitizen or to his family members, family ties in the U.S., length of residence in the U.S., service in the armed forces, a history of stable employment, and a probability that the noncitizen would experience persecution if returned to the country of removal. The order for deportation became final only if the immigration judge found the non-citizen failed to meet any of these bases for cancellation. The noncitizen could appeal the judge's decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals, and if the Board didn't reverse the original immigration judge's decision, the citizen could make another appeal to an independent federal court.1
1. "Forced Apart: Families Separated and Immigrants Harmed by United States Deportation Policy." Human Rights Watch, Volume 19, Number 3 (G), July, 2007.
2. “Conference Report on S. 735, Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996,” Congressional Record, vol. 142, no. 55, 104th Congress, 2nd Session, page E645, April 18, 1996 (Ms. Mink).
3. Congressional Record, vol. 141, S 7803, 104th Congress, 2nd Session, (Mr. Kennedy).
4. William J. Clinton, “Statement on Signing the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996,” Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, vol. 32 (April 24, 1996), p. 720.