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Is Hillary Clinton Really Responsible For Enacting or Supporting IIRIRA? Roger Algase

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In his September 12 Immigration Daily blogging post, Attorney Nolan Rappaport, a distinguished immigration law expert and former Congressional immigrant staffer who was active in the subsequent effort to remedy some of the harsher and more draconian anti-immigrant provisions of the 1996 Republican - originated immigration law IIRIRA (Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act), tries to connect Hillary Clinton with that statute on the basis of the fact that it was signed by her husband, then president Bill Clinton.

In his comment posted in response to someone else's comment on his post, Nolan goes ever further in trying to tie both Clinton's to approval of, if not endorsement of a bill which Nolan himself accurately calls a one-sided Republican immigration law in the same article.

Specifically, quotes statements by both Bill Clinton and his chief of staff, Leon Panetta, as signifying approval of the immigration enforcement aspects of the bill. In his comment on his own article, he then elaborates as follows

"Hillary talks about Trump breaking up American families by deporting undocumented aliens, but I don't hear her talking about families being broken up by aggravated felony removals for offenses that weren't aggravated felonies when they were committed. " [an obvious reference to one of the harshest and most unfair immigration enforcement provision of IIRIRA]

In the same comment on his own article, Nolan also writes:

"Isn't it interesting that Bill Clinton signed the bill that had IIRIRA in it? Apparently he liked the Republicans' get tough on illegal immigration approach. If he expressed the same opinion today, he would be called a bigot, a racist, and who knows what else."

The obvious implications are that a) Bill Clinton signed IIRIRA voluntarily because he agreed with this harsh Republican immigrant bill;, and, b) Hillary Clinton, whose husband signed this law 20 years ago, is allegedly reluctant to criticize one of its worst and most notorious provisions, namely that making deportation mandatory for lawful permanent residents who have, even before the law was enacted (think ex post facto) committed "aggravated felonies" (a term which can also include relatively minor misdemeanors in certain instances).

Nolan must be given credit for his ingenuity in devising an attack on Hillary Clinton's alleged immigration policies from the left for what he suggests is her implied support for IIRIRA, signed by her husband 20 years ago, or at least her alleged reluctance to criticize one ot is worst and most draconian provisions. But there us only one problem with Nolan's thesis:

His above suggestions are not supported either by the history of how IIRIRA came to be enacted into law, or by anything that Hillary Clinton has said or proposed.

To begin with the obvious, there is not the slightest shred of evidence that Hillary Clinton, who was First Lady in 1996 and had not yet begun her own political career, had anything whatsoever to do with the enactment of IIRIRA. Nor, to the best of my knowledge, has she ever done or said anything which could possibly be interpreted as indicating support for IIRIRA's notorious "aggravated felony" mandatory removal provision.

Her only possible connection to IIRIRA as that she was married to the president who signed it.

Therefore, we have to look at the question whether Bill Clinton signed IIRIRA because he really thought it was a good bill, or whether he did so because he had no choice - that IIRIRA was, in effect, a Republican gun pointed at his head, in the form of a rider attached to an omnibus government appropriations bill with important funding for government agencies, anti-terrorist, anti-crime, pro-education and other essential government activities that were not directly related to immigration policy and had nothing to do with IIRIRA.

As Nolan points out in his article, IIRIRA was part of a larger bill. Indeed it was part of a much larger bill - one that was virtually veto-proof, reaching President Clinton's desk just a little over a month before the 1996 presidential election.

For a fuller description of the many other, non-immigration related issues covered in this large appropriations bill, vetoing which might even, conceivably, have led to a partial government shutdown just befrore the election, see the statement of Bill Clinton's Chiof Staff, Leon Panetta:

http://clinton6.nara.gov/1996/09/199...nd-raines.html

Yes, Bill Clinton and Leon Panetta may have tried to put a favorable gloss on some of the enforcement provisions of IIRIRA, while at the same time taking credit for weakening or watering down the bill.

But did Bill Clinton sign IIRIRA because he enthusiastically supported it, as Nolan suggests? Or was it because Hillary's husband had little or no choice but to sign it?
________________________________
Roger Algase is New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 35 years, he has been helping mainly skillied and professional immigrants obrain work visas and green cards.Roger's email address is algaselex@gmail.com

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Updated 09-14-2016 at 11:06 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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Comments

  1. MKolken's Avatar
    "But did Bill Clinton sign IIRIRA because he enthusiastically supported it, as Nolan suggests? Or was it because Hillary's husband had little or no choice but to sign it?"

    He enthusiastically supported it: Secret Rahm memo to Clinton: Step up attack on immigrants. Be Nixon on crime.
  2. MKolken's Avatar
    And incidentally, Hillary Clinton has taken Bill Clinton's get tough on immigrants strategy one step further when she called for the immediate deportation of all criminal immigrants without due process saying they should be "deported immediately, with no legal process. They are immediately gone... No questions asked."
  3. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    In his September 12 Immigration Daily blogging post, Attorney Nolan Rappaport,... tries to connect Hillary Clinton with that statute on the basis of the fact that it was signed by her husband, then president Bill Clinton.

    That wasn't my intention.

    In his comment posted in response to someone else's comment on his post, Nolan goes ever further in trying to tie both Clinton's to approval of, if not endorsement of a bill which Nolan himself accurately calls a one-sided Republican immigration law in the same article.

    Bill's comments indicate that he was happy with the IIRIRA compromise he and his chief of staff had been able to work out with the Republicans. Is that approval? Depends on how you define the word. In any case, that is the way the legislative process normally works, the two parties compromise.

    Specifically, [Nolan] quotes statements by both Bill Clinton and his chief of staff, Leon Panetta, as signifying approval of the immigration enforcement aspects of the bill.

    Roger, are you saying their quotes don't indicate approval of the immigration enforcement aspects of the bill? Read them again....more carefully.

    If you could understand that there is a difference between being against ILLEGAL immigration and being anti-immigration, it might not be so difficult for you to understand other ways of looking at immigration enforcement issues. But apparently you can't see that distinction.


    In his comment on his own article, he then elaborates as follows

    "Hillary talks about Trump breaking up American families by deporting undocumented aliens, but I don't hear her talking about families being broken up by aggravated felony removals for offenses that weren't aggravated felonies when they were committed. " [an obvious reference to one of the harshest and most unfair immigration enforcement provision of IIRIRA]

    That was a mistake. I wasn't thinking of Hillary when I made the reference to aggravated felony removals. I was thinking of liberal democrats generally, not her in particular.

    In the same comment on his own article, Nolan also writes:

    "Isn't it interesting that Bill Clinton signed the bill that had IIRIRA in it? Apparently he liked the Republicans' get tough on illegal immigration approach. If he expressed the same opinion today, he would be called a bigot, a racist, and who knows what else."


    That's not true?

    The obvious implications are that a) Bill Clinton signed IIRIRA voluntarily because he agreed with this harsh Republican immigrant bill;,

    Again, the point of my quotes was just that Bill approved of IIRIRA's get tough on illegal immigration approach. I never said that he agreed with any other part of the bill. I don't know whether he did or not. He mentioned a few things he didn't like but his statement was not meant to be comprehensive.

    Nolan must be given credit for his ingenuity in devising an attack on Hillary Clinton's alleged immigration policies from the left for what he suggests is her implied support for IIRIRA, signed by her husband 20 years ago, or at least her alleged reluctance to criticize one ot is worst and most draconian provisions. But there us only one problem with Nolan's thesis:

    Again, I didn't say or indicate in any way that Hillary or bill supported IIRIRA, just that Bill liked the get tough on illegal immigration approach of IIRIRA.

    Therefore, we have to look at the question whether Bill Clinton signed IIRIRA because he really thought it was a good bill, or whether he did so because he had no choice -

    That has nothing to do with his favorable comments about the get tough on illegal immigration approach in IIRIRA.

    Yes, Bill Clinton and Leon Panetta may have tried to put a favorable gloss on some of the enforcement provisions of IIRIRA, while at the same time taking credit for weakening or watering down the bill.

    "Favorable gloss" ? Read their comments again, Roger.
  4. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    I am glad to see that Nolna evidently agrees with my contention that Hillary Clinton is not in any way responsible for enacting or supporting IIRIRA, since he does not dispute my comments to that effect. This would appear to indicate that Nolan is no longer pursuing his original suggestion that IIRIRA is in some way indicative of Hillary's views on immigration enforcement.

    I am always happy to be in agreement with Nolan about any point, rare as this may be.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
  5. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by MKolken
    "But did Bill Clinton sign IIRIRA because he enthusiastically supported it, as Nolan suggests? Or was it because Hillary's husband had little or no choice but to sign it?"

    He enthusiastically supported it: Secret Rahm memo to Clinton: Step up attack on immigrants. Be Nixon on crime.
    The Rahm meno is very interesting, and it supports the point I was making with the quotes I put in my article, but I don't agree that the memo or my quotes indicate that Bill Clinton supported IIRIRA. Frankly, I doubt that he even knew what was in IIRIRA. Do you think presidents read the bills they sign? He probably read some general descriptions, but it is extremely unlikely that he had a detailed understanding of the IIRIRA provisions.

    The memo and the quotations just indicate that Bill was opposed to illegal immigration. And the problem with IIRIRA wasn't that it cracked down on illegal immigration; the problem was the way it did it. One of the Republican staffers who worked on IIRIRA told me that the immigration judges were giving away the store, so they had to reign them in by restricting how much discretion they had. He was very wrong about what the immigration judges were doing, but he couldn't see it. We need an IIRIRA fix it bill to restore that discretion.
  6. Tim Ho's Avatar
    Mr. Algase is always so predictably "progressive" ():>] How anti-'conservative': "the subsequent effort to remedy some of the harsher and more draconian anti-immigrant provisions of the 1996 Republican - originated immigration law IIRIRA" -- "IIRIRA was, in effect, a Republican gun pointed at his head"
    (As one directed to arrest LAPR's for 10 & 20 year old DUI convictions as 'aggravated felons', I agree with the 'draconian' tag. However it took two (parties) to tango .. and. only Donkeys do right? Really?)




  7. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    The above comments make some valid points, especially since it is unarguable that Bill Clinton, for whatever reasons, did sign IIRIRA and that he had at least one or two good things to say about it when he signed, as well as a comment, amplified by then Chief of Staff Leon Panetts, about watering down or eliminating provisions against legal immigration in the orginal bill which were obviously critical of IIRIRA in its original form

    But none of the above comments in response to my above original post deal with the fact that by attaching IIRIRA to a much larger, must pass appriations bill that had little or nothing to do with immigration policy, the Republicans prevented consideration of IIRIRA on its own merits and in effect forced Bill Clinton to sign it at legislative gun point.

    Whether Bill Clinton said something good about the bill or not is not the main issue.

    The point is that he never had the chance to consider the IIRIRA on its own merits.

    The other, and even more pertinent point, is that criticizing either of the Clintons for allegedly not always being on the side of immigration reform in the past, or, in Hillary's case, making immigration proposals the allegedly might not lead to reform in the future, as Nolan claims Hillary is doing in his recent Immigration Daily article, is comparable to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, compared to Donald Trump's proposed drastic changes in both immigration enforcement and in the legal immigration system, especially as st forth in his August 31 immigration address.

    I have previously commented on this landmark speech, in which Trump essentially reiterated his previous harsh enforcement proposals against illegal immigration, and also attacked the 1965 reform law which is the entire foundation of our modern legal immigration system.

    I will have more to say about this in upcoming posts.

    I have no doubt that the deck chairs on the Titanic might not have been in perfect order and could possibly have done with some rearranging. But paying closer attention to the iceberg would have come in even handier.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 09-14-2016 at 11:44 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  8. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    My point wasn't that Bill said something good about IIRIRA. My point was that he agreed with the get tough on illegal immigration approach in IIRIRA.
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