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US immigration legislation online


1996 Illegal Immigration Reform & Immigrant Responsibility Act

H.R. 3610; Pub.L. 104-208; 110 Stat. 3009-546.

104th Congress; September 30, 1996.

You can find the full text of this law from the GPO as text or PDF (note: scroll down to Division C).



This act is a very large and complex piece of legislation, enacted on September 30, 1996 (Clinton was president at this time), which addresses many aspects of immigration (both legal and illegal), and the responsibilities placed upon not only immigrants, but those enforcing legal immigration. It directly addresses border patrol and upgrades needed for border patrol enforcers, equipment, and the overall patrolling process. It also details an increase in interior enforcement and practices with regard to INS and investigators monitoring visa applications and visa abusers. Illegal activities were a central concern in this bill and penalties for racketeering, alien smuggling and the use or creation of fraudulent immigration-related documents are high on the priority list. Other crimes and immigration-related offenses committed by aliens and the consequences, including deportation, are addressed in the sections following.

Employment programs and employment eligibility issues are incorporated into the bill, which includes sanctions threatened on employers and the regulation of unfair immigration-related employment practices. The title of the next section of IIRAIRA points to restrictions placed on alien benefits, which includes but is not limited to state and federally funded programs. Some miscellaneous provisions mentioned relate to medical services, pilot programs, and reporting. Alien residence (housing) and financial issues regarding the same are addressed including a plethora of miscellaneous provisions. These further miscellaneous provisions are directed towards refugees, parolees, and the reform of asylum, while the Immigration and Nationality Act was amended under many different topics. Without belaboring the miscellaneous provisions, they covered visa processing, consular efficiency, as well as but not limited to schooling, religious (criminal-related) offenses, mail-order brides, H-2A nonimmigrant worker program, and other broadly ranging issues.

TITLE I emphasized heightened border enforcement, aimed to establish methods of legal (and regulated) alien entry and interior systems designed to monitor and verify authorized immigrants.

TITLE II recognized heightened enforcement and increased penalties for transporting undocumented aliens into the United States; both aliens willingly entering and by means of involuntary servitude. The title pertains, most specifically, to non-immigrants (citizens) usage and participation in fraudulent activities/behaviors increasing alien habitation.

TITLE III stipulates acceptable practices of examination, arrest, imprisonment, mediation and removal of excludable and deportable aliens. The title includes numerous revisions and changes, implementing additional provisions in its last subtitle (subtitle F).

TITLE IV provides information pertaining to alien employment. The title includes implemented restrictions and maintenance of employment pilot programs, (alien) employers and unacceptable practices of/in alien employment.

TITLE V solidifies the government’s role in providing assistance to aliens. The title includes rules and restrictions, used to establish alien eligibility (or lack thereof), of government support. Miscellaneous provisions were taken into consideration; pilot work programs, unexpected medical expenses as well as an increased penalty for fraudulent activity, aimed to benefit (or benefiting) unauthorized aliens. The title stipulates set determinants for eligibility of public housing assistance and has specified standards used to regulate government aid given to aliens.

TITLE VI contains miscellaneous stipulations not (necessarily) laid forth by previous titles, and technical corrections to the act. The title considers the status of “aliens” not intended to fall under the act, individuals deemed refugee, parolee and those seeking asylum. Additional modifications and clarification is given, such as, regulations pertaining to foreign students (Sec. 625) and visa waiver programs (Sec. 635). Other provisions referenced a multitude of issues, from the criminalization of female genital mutilation (Sec. 645) to border patrol museums (Sec. 658). Finally, severability of any provision is included, in the event it becomes unconstitutional.

(Summary by Kate Saint Germain and Carly J. Stevens)



IIRAIRA 96 – A Summary of the New Immigration Bill – Topical Summary – This is simply an overview/summary of the contents of this bill, provided by a law firm specializing in immigration law.

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996 – Attorney Henry J. Chang discusses the most important provisions of this Act and summarizes them.

Mexico Criticizes IIRAIRA– An article from Migration News, Vol. 4, No. 4, May 1997 which discusses criticisms of the Act by Mexico.

National Fast For Immigration Justice - This site describes personal stories of people who have been hurt by the provisions of IIRAIRA Act and argues that it must be repealed.


Many thanks to Hein Online for document provision, and The University of Washington-Bothell Library, for arranging web hosting. If you have any questions about this site, please contact the course instructor, Sarah Starkweather, at sarah [dot] starkweather [at] gmail [dot] com.