The 1996 passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) has had a devastating impact on immigrants who are detained, indigent, and forced to face deportation proceedings without representation. Despite the growing specter of the “criminal alien” in the American psyche, there is little public knowledge or scrutiny of the vast immigration detention and deportation machine. Enforcement of IIRIRA has effectively erased human stories and narrowed immigration debates to numbers and statistics. This paper tells the stories of individuals — immigration attorneys, immigration judges, and detained immigrants and their family members — who have personally experienced the impact of IIRIRA. Collectively, these vignettes provide a realistic picture of the immigration detention experience and reveal the human cost of IIRIRA.
Kevin Appleby, Senior Director for International Migration Policy, reports from Athens, Greece.