One Strike, You're Out

Bygone crimes haunt legal immigrants with the threat of deportation

| November 3, 2005

The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act broadened the criteria by which the United States could deport its legal immigrants. According to Stacie Williams in The Chicago Reporter, the federal boot, once reserved for convicts of crimes such as murder, rape, and armed robbery, is now used against minor offenders such as shoplifters, even if they committed their crimes before 1996.

After Sept. 11, 2001, officials stringently enforced the sweeping new law as the Department of Homeland Security used a massive database of state and local records to screen legal immigrants. Re-entering the United States and even applying for citizenship could suddenly trigger deportation. 'It's highlighted how unforgiving the law can be, if something that happened 30 years ago is catching up to them,' Fred Tsao, policy director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, told Williams.

In 2004, immigration fugitive arrests rose 112 percent from the previous fiscal year and some lawmakers continue to push more measures to crack down. As the system is refined and tolerance lessens, a massive class of US workers will be walking on eggshells, without much hope of ever becoming citizens.
-- Ty Otis

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