How Immigration Works

Deportation and Amnesty

­A law passed in 1996 states that anyone who’s not a U.S. citizen and receives a jail sentence of a year or longer can be deported, or forcibly removed, from the U.S. This law was intended to crack down on some types of crime associated with an increase in illegal immigrants, such as gang violence and drug smuggling. However, since it was passed, some people have been deported for crimes they committed many years ago, even though they have served their time and become law-abiding citizens.

The Department of Homeland Security has also become more active in tracking down and deporting illegal immigrants since September 11, 2001. In some cases, problems with deportation can occur when the country of origin refuses to accept the person being deported.

If you or someone you know is facing deportation, contact an immigration attorney immediately.


Over the last two decades, many illegal immigrants have been saved from deportation by amnesty, a pardon for people who have broken immigration laws. Amnesty also allows illegal aliens to obtain permanent residency in the U.S.

Prior to 1986, amnesty was granted on a limited basis. The first large-scale amnesty was the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which gave amnesty to about 2.8 million illegal immigrants. Six other amnesties have followed, some targeting specific groups. The 1997 Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act gave amnesty to almost one million illegal aliens from Central America. In 1998, the Haitian refugee Immigration Fairness Act granted amnesty to 125,000 illegal aliens from Haiti, many of whom had suffered from the political turmoil and violence that had consumed their country.

Amnesty remains a controversial subject. Some critics believe it encourages people to immigrate illegally to the U.S. in the hopes of another large-scale amnesty. Supporters of amnesty say that, among other benefits, it helps by making illegal immigrants eligible for taxation and integrates them into society.