This is a story about a forgotten time when a Democratic president sold out our ideals for the sake of...well...something.
In general it seems that the Democrats remember the 1990's as a golden age. For some Americans it was. Poverty was down and income was up and that's great.
Unfortunately the economy changes and along with it the fortunes of the people. Now poverty is up and incomes are down. So goes the economic cycle.
One real way to judge the legacy of an administration is to examine the legislation they propose or sign.
Since we're being told that Senator Clinton is running in part based on her experience in her husband's administration I'd like to briefly examine a few bills that the Clinton administration signed into law as that's part of the record she's running on.
In 1996 the Senate and House passed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. Bill Clinton signed it into law on April 24, 1996.
AEDPA hurt citizens and immigrants alike. AEDPA severely restricted the appeals process for people on death row and curtailed judicial review making it easier for the government to execute people.
In the criminal contest AEDPA has been described as:
"a Draconian statute that prevents defendants even from challenging their convictions based on, for instance, strong new evidence of innocence, or a serious error of law on a question the Supreme Court has not yet directly addressed."
It’s clear that in our flawed criminal justice system with its obvious race and class bias that such a law would disproportionately harm the poor and minorities. Other than pandering to the right-wing there was little or not legitimate reason to pass such a bill and a principled stand by a Democrat would have been to veto it.
AEDPA also removed some of the existing legal processes for immigrants facing deportation and made it easier to deport people. It created mandatory detention prior to deportation. It broadened the types of crimes that could result in a deportation. Essentially it made it easier for the government to detain and deport people and made it harder for those same people to prove that they should be allowed to stay.
The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility was also passed and signed into law in 1996. Along with AEDPA this law was supposed to have the effect of controlling illegal immigration and immigration fraud. In actuality they are both needlessly and pointlessly harsh and punitive laws that harm American families and make it harder to legally enter the United States.
The American Immigration Lawyers association has described some of the harshest provisions of both AEDPA and IIRIRA:
Removal of judicial review
IIRIRA contains many provisions that strip the courts of any authority to review Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) decisions. Under IIRIRA, a court no longer can review virtually any discretionary decisions affording relief to eligible individuals.
Expanded and retroactive definition of deportable offenses
IIRIRA greatly expands the definition of "aggravated felony" for immigration purposes. This definition is unrelated to any criminal definitions and, under IIRIRA, includes non-violent crimes such as shoplifting and check kiting. Under immigration law, "aggravated felons" are automatically deportable without the possibility of relief from deportation. Furthermore, the new expanded definitions are retroactive. Thus, legal immigrants may be placed into deportation proceedings today for minor offenses they committed decades ago. This is true even if the offense was not defined at the time as an aggravated felony (and therefore may not have been a deportable offense), and the immigrant has served his/her punishment in the criminal law system or had no sentence imposed.
Removal of discretion from Immigration Judges
Prior to the passage of IIRIRA, the Immigration and Nationality Act provided immigration judges with some discretion to grant relief from deportation for long-term lawful permanent residents who had committed a crime but merited a "second chance." In order to be eligible to apply for relief, an applicant had to show that he or she had been a lawful permanent resident for at least seven years, had served less than five years of a sentence if the underlying crime was classified as an "aggravated felony," had been rehabilitated, and had no other criminal record. If the applicant was able to establish these factors, the immigration judge had the discretion not to deport the applicant. However, IIRIRA completely bars anyone who has been convicted of an aggravated felony from even applying for this type of relief. This provision essentially denies any opportunity for rehabilitation for long-term permanent residents who have family here and ties to the community. Reform is needed given the broadly expanded definition and retroactive application of aggravated felony provisions under IIRIRA.
Expedited removal procedures
IIRIRA creates a new expedited removal process at all U.S. ports of entry. Under this process, an INS inspector at a port of entry can summarily remove people without a hearing who are attempting to enter the U.S. with fraudulent or no documents. Persons who attempt to enter by "misrepresentation" also may be removed. Persons summarily removed can be barred from reentering the U.S. for a minimum of five years, and possibly permanently. IIRIRA explicitly strips the federal courts of any authority to review the INS’s decision in this area, thereby providing low-level INS employees with broad, unchecked authority to issue final and binding deportation orders. However, these provisions are overly broad in scope and are being applied to persons who have valid documents, but whom an inspector believes intends to violate the terms of his or her status. Without any meaningful review, unsuspecting travelers are finding themselves facing summary deportation based only on the subjective opinion of the inspector.
New bars to admissibility
IIRIRA creates new bars to entering the U.S. for people who have been unlawfully present in the U.S. for six months or longer. Under these new provisions, anyone who tries to enter the U.S. who has previously been in the country unlawfully for more than 180 days, but less than one year, will be barred from reentering the U.S. for three years. Anyone who is in the U.S. unlawfully for one year or more will be barred from reentering for ten years. The 1996 law provides only very limited waivers and exceptions to these bars.
Gutting suspension of deportation
IIRIRA significantly changed a discretionary form of relief that was known as "suspension of deportation" (now called "cancellation of removal"). This relief allowed a judge to suspend the deportation of a person who was not legally residing in the U.S. but who had lived here for a long time and had other extenuating circumstances. To be eligible to apply for suspension of deportation, an applicant had to prove that he or she had been in the U.S. for at least seven years and that the applicant or his/her U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family member would suffer extreme hardship if the applicant were deported. If the applicant could establish these factors, the immigration judge could prevent the applicant’s deportation. IIRIRA made this form of relief much more difficult to obtain. Under IIRIRA, an applicant must show that he/she has been in the U.S. for at least ten years and that deportation would result in "exceptional and extremely unusual hardship" to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family member – hardship to the applicant is insufficient. If the applicant cannot meet these extremely high eligibility requirements, the judge has no authority to suspend the applicant’s deportation.
Use of secret evidence.
IIRIRA, together with AEDPA, establishes a new court charged only with hearing cases in which the government seeks to deport aliens based on secret evidence submitted in the form of classified information. The INS already has tried in other courts to use secret evidence against immigrants. In commenting on one such attempt, a court said, "One would be hard pressed to design a procedure more likely to result in erroneous deprivations. Secrecy is not congenial to truth seeking. No better instrument has been devised for arriving at the truth than to give a person in jeopardy of serious loss notice of the case against him and the opportunity to meet it." This simple statement is a fundamental requisite of any fair legal system. Proceedings conducted out of sight of the accused and their attorneys are a feature of totalitarian governments, not of our own.
Add to that year welfare "reform" (which has had mixed effects at best even when the economy was good) that removed the safety net for the poorest among us or at least made the holes in the net bigger and the net temporary and the refusal to equalize the crack/cocaine disparity and it appears that the 1990's was an attack on the poor, immigrants, and immigrants, and minorities.
I haven't seen any evidence that Senator Clinton is running away from this record. In fact, at least with reference to immigration she's moving even more to the right.
At campaign stops Senator Clinton has stated that immigrants who commit crimes should be put on a plane and sent back to where they came from immediately with no legal process.
Those positions have destroyed numerous lives and are not in any way positions of a Democrat.
In fact they are a betrayal of what we hold dear as a party.
If Senator Clinton wants to run on the record of the 1990's then she needs to own it all, good and bad.