chapter  4
Efficiency and Cost: Detention and Deportation under the Acts of 1996
Pages 18

Driven in large part by the “political revolution” in 1994 that swept Republicans into Congress and gave ardent opponents of illegal immigration a tremendous victory in California, both Congress and the Clinton Administration proposed another set of laws to limit the migration of the poor and unskilled into the United States. Also, by providing for summary deportation and removal proceedings, immigration law gave public officials new methods to cut out more quickly and efficiently persons who violated the criminal law. All of these contemporary rules had analogs in the past, but substantively, the immigration rules passed in 1996 were part of a much larger move in the law to become harsher and tougher on “persons likely to be a public charge.” Instead of a war on poverty. Congress did seem to be stepping up a “war against the poor.”1 Rhetorically, the changes in policy were about increasing “efficiency,” “personal responsibility,” and “enhancing public safety,” which meant being tougher on crime and forcing the poor to be less dependent upon public assistance. After all, “changing welfare as we know it” was a campaign promise made by Presidential candidate Bill Clinton in 1992, and by 1994, Republicans in Congress were eager to take up this offer with renewed fervor.