Automatic Injustice: Living Under the Legacy of the 1996 Immigration Laws


Deportations of immigrants and refugees spiked dramatically after 1996 when Congress passed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). These laws severely restricted the ability of an immigration judge to consider the individual circumstances of a person before ordering deportation, and greatly expanded the range of criminal convictions that result in mandatory deportation without judicial review. Even lawful permanent residents who have lived in the country for decades, came to the country as children, have advanced degrees or small businesses, or were adopted but didn’t naturalize can be deported automatically and permanently because of these laws. For twenty years, immigrant and refugee families have lived under the legacy of the 1996 laws.

On July 24, the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center hosted a Congressional briefing on these issues co-sponsored by IJN partners (Immigrant Defense Project, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild), Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Detention Watch Network, League of United Latin American Citizen, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, and OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, South Asian Americans Leading Together.

The speakers on the panel described their experiences fighting their own deportation orders and talk about potential policy change that honors family unity and due process.

Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of SEARAC
Lundy & Linda Khoy
Alejandra Pablos
Donald Anthonyson
Representative Raul Grijalva

The Immigrant Justice Network is a leading advocacy voice against the criminalization of immigrants in the United States. Grounded in racial justice values, we build power to defend the dignity of all immigrants.