Punishment Increases for Undocumented Migrants

1996

United States

Borders Citizenship Discrimination & Inequity

Enacted under the Clinton administration, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA) of 1996 significantly changed and streamlined immigration law pertaining to both legal and undocumented immigrants. The 1996 Act enhanced border patrol, strengthened enforcement against smuggling undocumented persons across the border, cracked down on document fraud, and increased deportation of undocumented migrants.

The most contentious component of the bill, Title III, enacted a rule that undocumented persons residing in the U.S. for more than one year and found in violation of certain legal rules would be deported and forbidden from re-entry for ten years. This stipulation held true even for individuals with a spouse or children who were U.S. citizens. The IIRIRA permitted Congress to impose penalties retroactively, deporting immigrants for conduct that was not a deportable offense when the action in question occurred. It also put in place employment eligibility verification guidelines, including provisions to impose sanctions on employers who did not comply with restrictions on unfair immigrant employment practices.