240+ Groups Urge Congress to Repeal Hurtful 1996 Immigration Laws

WASHINGTON, DC, June 19, 2019 – Today, more than 240 immigration, civil rights, and other organizations across the country urged Congress to repeal the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), laws passed in 1996 which have led to the mass immigration detention and deportation machines that are decimating communities.

A broad expanse of leading organizations within the immigrant rights, criminal justice and civil rights movements have signed the letter to House Leadership, highlighting the role of AEDPA and IIRIRA as the blueprint for massive expansions to the immigration enforcement system, along with the additional impacts of drastically criminalizing immigrants and severely eroding due process protections for these communities.

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The letter details the need for legislation that would undo the harms of the 1996 laws by:

  • Ending immigration detention without bail;

  • Ending the automatic deportation of individuals who have had contact with the criminal legal system;

  • Ending the entanglement of local policing and immigration enforcement; and

  • Repealing laws that make migration a crime.

You can read the full letter here.

“This letter demonstrates the political will across multiple movements for the need to end these outdated, unjust, and harmful pieces of legislation. These bills have resulted in hundreds of thousands of deportations, including an estimated 1,500 Southeast Asian Americans, without providing the immigrants involved adequate legal protections or avenues to contest their cases. We urge Congress to act swiftly and with moral leadership to keep our families together,” said Quyen Dinh, executive director of SEARAC.

“The 1996 immigration laws have played a key role in the massive expansion of the U.S. detention and deportation system over the last two decades. They have also helped to severely limit the rights of noncitizens, and to fuel their criminalization,” said Mizue Aizeki, an IJN core member and Acting Executive Director of the Immigrant Defense Project. “At a time when the harms of the nation’s immigration policies are in the spotlight, organizations across movements are sending a clear message that the 1996 laws facilitate many injustices. It is critical that those in Congress who stand for human rights work to repeal this legislation.”

“The 1996 laws cemented the pipeline that runs from jail to deportation, further penalizing Black people, people of color and immigrants already targeted by over-policing and racial profiling. The 1996 laws double down on the flawed notion that certain members of our communities are disposable and should be further excluded from relief and exiled,” said Sameera Hafiz, an IJN core member and policy director of the ILRC. “It is past time for Congress to repeal the racist laws that have devastated immigrant communities for decades, and work towards transforming our legal systems to uplift the dignity of all members of our communities.”