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Study Shows Effects of 1996 Immigration Law on Legal Immigrants

Via Newswire, a study released today shows that immigration laws are not targeting the most dangerous illegal immigrants. The study, conducted by the law schools of the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, Davis, reports that changes to immigration law in 1996 have led to large numbers of deportations of legal permanent residents (LPRs), or green card holders, over a 10-year period due to non-violent, minor crimes: They now make up nearly 10 percent of all immigrants deported from the country.

From the report:

In 1996, Congress passed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which together introduced additional immigration restrictions on LPRs convicted of crimes. The law expanded the category of crimes designated as aggravated felonies to encompass a broad range of minor and non-violent offenses. Lawful permanent residents convicted of an aggravated felony are subject to mandatory deportation and other severe immigration consequences. Currently, a conviction may fall into this category without being a felony and without involving any aggravated circumstances.10 Even expunging such a crime from an individual’s record does not remove the immigration consequences it triggers.

Until 1996, most lawful permanent residents with criminal convictions facing deportation were entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge who would balance an individual’s criminal convictions against his or her positive contributions to the United States. At this hearing, an immigration judge could consider the impact that deportation of an LPR parent would have on U.S. citizen children and, if warranted, could decide to allow an LPR to remain in the country. However, the 1996 immigration laws eliminated such hearings for LPRs facing deportation based on convictions classified as aggravated felonies.

The report claims that more than 68 percent of LPRs are deported for minor crimes, including driving under the influence, simple assault and non-violent drug offenses, and that 88,000 U.S. citizen children have lost their legal immigrant parents through these laws.

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