May 2017 — The last major revisions to U.S. immigration laws were made in 1996 under President Clinton. Shorthanded as the “‘96 Laws,” the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform & Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) radically remade immigration enforcement to adopt criminal law’s harshest elements—including mass incarceration, discriminatory policing, and unforgiving sentencing—and exposed millions of longtime residents to forced deportation.
Since the passage of the ‘96 Laws, the federal government has diverted tens of billions of dollars to enforce and expand this abusive immigration framework. In this time, the U.S. has forcibly removed close to 5 million immigrants from the country—more than double the number of people it deported in the 110 years prior—establishing itself as home to the largest deportation system in the world.
While administrations have changed, the constant result has been the breaking apart of hundreds of thousands of families, weakening of local economies and communities, and widening of racial inequalities.
As the Trump administration seeks to further expand the multi-billion-dollar budget for deportations, the Immigrant Rights Clinic at the NYU School of Law and the Immigrant Justice Network have issued Dismantle, Don’t Expand: The 1996 Immigration Laws to provide policy-makers, advocates, and journalists with an accessible analysis of the 1996 Laws, the devastating human and fiscal impact their implementation has had on millions of Americans, and the argument for doing away with them.