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In 1996, following the first World Trade Center attack and Oklahoma City bombing, President Clinton signed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which made deportation mandatory for all legal permanent residents sentenced to a year or more for “aggravated felonies,” “moral turpitude” or controlled substances. This act, along with the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, made deportation of legal non-residents much faster and more frequent by considering increasingly minor criminal offenses automatically deportable.
Critics of the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act point out that definitions of what constitutes crimes of “moral turpitude” or “aggravated felony” are intentionally vague and frequently changed to increase the number of deportable individuals. As a result, non-citizens are subject to laws that apply no matter how long ago their crime was committed, regardless of time-served, without recourse to judicial review or appeal and without the chance to challenge their deportation based on ties to family or length of time in the U.S.
In 2003, jurisdiction over immigration laws changed hands, moving from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to the Department of Homeland Security, signaling a clear connection between fears about terrorism within U.S. borders and immigration law.
In 2004, the Department of Homeland Security launched “Operation Endgame,” a strategy to remove all deportable aliens within 10 years. In 2005, a Homeland Security Spending Bill increased funds for immigration law enforcement to ten billion dollars, significantly raising the number of border patrol agents, immigration investigators and interior detention personnel.
In 2006, Congress began considering more reform proposals that would impose even harsher restrictions for immigrants who have broken the law and expand the definition of deportable crimes even further. As a result, minor past offenses can increasingly be used as grounds for expulsion.
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