For Black immigrants, life in the U.S. can feel like living on thin ice. On a daily basis, our communities face criminalization, police brutality, mass incarceration, deportation, and detention. For many, these challenges began twenty years ago with the passage of the “1996 Immigration Laws.” The 1996 laws broadened and fast-tracked the detention, and deportation, of Black, Brown, immigrant, and poor communities, and along with other egregious policies passed during the mid-90’s, resulted in the U.S. mass incarceration and immigration enforcement systems becoming the largest in the world.
Today, as we mark the 20th anniversary of the 1996 laws, Black Alliance and allies are calling on Congress to decriminalize the U.S. immigration system by repealing the 1996 laws.
The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (“IIR-IRA”) and Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), commonly known as the “1996 Immigration Laws,” expanded the grounds for deportation by broadening the definition of “aggravated felony; ”establishing harsh sentences for numerous offenses and classes of mandatory detention; stripping away judicial discretion and the right to due process, and retroactively punishing those who already served time for their offenses.
Twenty years later, Black immigrant families and communities continue to be torn apart and devastated by these unjust laws. It’s been twenty years too long! Black Alliance and some of our closest allies are calling on Congress to roll back the 1996 laws by:
- Removing convictions as grounds for deportation and exclusion, including aggravated felonies and drug offenses. Ending the retroactive application of the 1996 laws.
- Restoring judicial discretion and due process for all individuals who come into contact with the criminal justice and immigration systems.
- Ending permanent deportation.
- Ending mandatory detention.
- Ending police/ICE collaboration programs such as 287g. Eliminating the 3 and ten-year bars, which prohibit return to the U.S.
- Providing a “right to counsel” in immigration proceedings.
We know that a complete transformation of the immigration and criminal justice systems will be needed to fully meet our demands. Nonetheless, repealing the 1996 laws will serve as a serious step toward ending the war on immigrant families and communities nationwide