To understand many of the flaws in our immigration system today, you need to know how immigration law was transformed, or perhaps more appropriately, deformed, by changes dating back to 1996.
To illustrate, consider the following circle to represent the pool of immigrants eligible to become legal residents at the start of 1996.
The Illegal Immigration Reform And Immigrant Responsibility Act Of 1996
One set of IIRAIRA’s changes tightened rules directly impacting permanent resident applicants.
A second set of rules, continuing into the early part of 2000, limited the ability of immigrants to win permanent residency via immigration court hearings and deportation defense trials.
The net effect? The circle below tells the story.
For a fuller discussion on how IIRAIRA changes affected immigrants, see The Congressional War Against Due Process At Immigration Court.