As members of Congress struggle to reconcile their opposing views on immigration reform, rapid-firing amendments and counter-amendments across the aisle, we all should remember the successes and failures of our last immigration law overhaul in 1996. If the current attempt at reform succeeds, legislative inertia will leave statutory language, whether good or bad, on the books for decades. To illustrate the point — and make a call for change — I will focus on two flawed provisions in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) with drastic consequences, likely far more draconian than legislators intended.
These two provisions contain obvious typos — a clear signal that a work product received insufficient attention. They have landed hundreds of noncitizens I personally have advised in removal proceedings. Undoubtedly, they have caused thousands to be deported since IIRIRA was passed. The provisions appear deliberately designed to toss the maximum number of persons out of the country, since they cause offenses deemed minimally significant in the criminal realm to trigger virtually automatic deportation.
Specifically, IIRIRA made theft crimes and “crimes of violence” punished by sentences of one year or more “aggravated felonies.” An “aggravated felony” is a deportation ground that equates to the kiss of death in immigration law: it generally makes a noncitizen’s removal all but inevitable. It is irrelevant whether the noncitizen actually spent time in jail. Criminal judges often hold suspended sentences over defendants’ heads to encourage, say, compliance with probation. Even if the defendant never experiences incarceration, and never commits another crime, the suspended sentence may lead to her mandatory deportation.
Read the rest: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-murraytjan/a-tale-of-two-typos_b_3563084.html