Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996

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Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996
Great Seal of the United States
Long title An Act making omnibus consolidated appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 1997, and for other purposes.
Acronyms (colloquial) IIRIRA

Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997, “The Mexican Exclusionary Act of

Enacted by the 104th United States Congress
Effective September 30, 1996
Public law 104-208
Statutes at Large 110 Stat. 3009 aka 110 Stat. 3009-546
Titles amended 8 U.S.C.: Aliens and Nationality
U.S.C. sections amended
Legislative history

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, Division C of Pub.L. 104–208, 110 Stat. 3009-546, enacted September 30, 1996 (often referred to as "i-RAI-ruh," and sometimes abbreviated as "IIRAIRA" or "IIRIRA") vastly changed the immigration laws of the United States.

This act states that immigrants unlawfully present in the United States for 180 days but less than 365 days must remain outside the United States for three years unless they obtain a pardon. If they are in the United States for 365 days or more, they must stay outside the United States for ten years unless they obtain a waiver. If they return to the United States without the pardon, they may not apply for a waiver for a period of ten years.

Constitutional issues within the law

Previously, immediate deportation was triggered only for offenses that could lead to five years or more in jail. Under the Act, minor offenses such as shoplifting may make individuals eligible for deportation. When IIRIRA was passed in 1996, it was applied retroactively to all those convicted of deportable offenses.

However, in 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Congress did not intend IIRIRA to be applied retroactively to those who pleaded guilty to a crime prior to the enactment of IIRIRA if they would not have been deportable at the time that they pleaded guilty in (INS v. St. Cyr).

IIRIRA's mandatory detention provisions have also been repeatedly challenged, with less success.

The Reed Amendment, a portion of IIRIRA which makes people who renounced U.S. citizenship excludable from the U.S. if the Attorney General finds that they renounced for purposes of tax avoidance, has also been suggested to be unconstitutional.[1]

The IIRIRA authorized the Immigration and Naturalization Service to use "secret evidence" against aliens in various immigration proceedings if the evidence is deemed classified and the INS considers it relevant to the case. Critics have challenged the constitutionality of this provision and in 1999 and 2000 a "Secret Evidence Repeal Act" was introduced in Congress, but never passed.[2]

Deportation issues

Deportees may be held in jail for months, even as much as two years, before being brought before an immigration board, at which defendants need to pay for their own legal representation. In 2001, the Supreme Court curtailed the Immigration Service's ability to hold deportees indefinitely in Zadvydas v. Davis.

The Act has been applied much more vigorously since 9/11. At least 1,000 British citizens were affected by the law in 2003.[citation needed]

Section 287(g) and relations between federal and lower levels of government

IIRIRA addressed the relationship between the federal government and local governments. Section 287(g) is a program of the act that permits the U.S. Attorney General to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies, permitting designated officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions, pursuant to a Memorandum of Agreement. This section does not simply deputize state and local law enforcement personnel to enforce immigration matters.[3]

This provision was implemented by local and state authorities in five states: California, Arizona, Alabama, Florida and North Carolina by the end of 2006.[4]

See also


  1. Carter, Michelle Leigh (2002). "Giving Taxpatriates the Boot, Permanently: The Reed Amendment Unconstitutionally Infringes on the Fundamental Right to Expatriate". Georgia Law Review. 36 (835). Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  2. Gobind Singh Sethi. "Legislative Focus: Repealing the Use of Secret Evidence". American University Washington College of Law, Human Rights Brief – Volume 8, issue 1, 2000. 
  3. Archived September 25, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  4. Zezima, Katie (December 13, 2006). "Massachusetts Set for Its Officers to Enforce Immigration Law". New York Times. 

External links