The Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act, or IIRIRA, was enacted to prevent the flow of undocumented aliens into the United States. The law stipulated such initiatives as increased border patrol staffing for border surveillance, enhanced enforcement and penalties against alien smuggling, tougher sanctions for illegal immigrants caught inside the U.S. borders, and increased restrictions on alien employment, benefits, and assistance programs.
On September 30, 1996, President
Six of forty-nine Salvadorans whose attempt to enter the United States illegally in 1999 failed. They are shown at El Salvador’s international airport after being returned to their homeland on a plane chartered by the U.S. government.
The illegal-immigration bill that ultimately became IIRIRA 96 was divided into six broad areas and focused primarily on stronger enforcement efforts and penalties for person who attempt to enter illegally,
•Title I: Improvements to border control, facilitation of legal entry, and interior enforcement
•Title II: Enhanced enforcement and penalties against alien smuggling and document fraud
•Title III: Inspection, apprehension, detention, adjudication, and removal of inadmissible and deportable aliens
•Title IV: Enforcement of restrictions against employment
•Title V: Restrictions on benefits for aliens
•Title VI: Miscellaneous provisions
One of the most controversial items in the bill, Title III, addressed the issue of undocumented aliens already inside U.S. borders. In particular, the government enacted rules calling for permanent restrictions or bans on undocumented aliens found in violation of certain legal rules. For example, the act states that any person who has been in the United States illegally for at least 180 days, but less than one year, must remain outside the United States for three years unless granted a pardon. Moreover, any person who has been in the United States illegally for more than one year must reside outside the United States for ten years unless a pardon is granted. Any such person who returns to the United States prematurely without the specified pardon will not be permitted to apply for a waiver for reentry for an additional ten years. Additionally, the language of the law applies regardless of whether a person has a spouse or children who are U.S. citizens.
Hayes, Helene. U.S. Immigration Policy and the Undocumented: Ambivalent Laws and Furtive Lives. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2001. Newton, Lina. Illegal, Alien, or Immigrant: The Politics of Immigration Reform. New York: New York University Press, 2008.
Commission on Immigration Reform, U.S.
Immigration Act of 1990
Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy
Smuggling of immigrants