• The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) imposed sanctions on employers who knowingly hired or recruited unauthorized aliens. The law also created two legalization programs. One allowed current unauthorized aliens who had lived in the United States since 1982 to regularize their status; the other permitted people who had worked for at least 90 days in certain agricultural jobs to apply for permanent resident status. Under these programs, roughly 2.7 million people who were then illegally residing in the United States eventually became lawful permanent residents. IRCA also set the stage for the Institutional Removal Program (IRP) and the Alien Criminal Apprehension Program (ACAP), established in 1988 (see below), and prohibited certain forms of employment discrimination on the basis of national origin and citizenship status.
• The Anti-Drug Abuse Act (ADAA) added “aggravated felony” as a new but limited ground for deportation. Initially, this category was limited to serious crimes (e.g., murder and drug and weapons trafficking), regardless of the sentence imposed and the longevity of the alien’s residence in the United States. In subsequent years, Congress and new court decisions greatly expanded the aggravated felony category and the legal penalties of those so categorized. ADAA also cut back on the procedural protection and discretionary relief available to such aliens.
• As a result of the IRCA (see above)—which required INS to initiate deportation proceedings for all criminal aliens at federal, state, and local prisons as expeditiously as possible after the date of conviction—INS established the Institutional Removal Program (IRP) and the Alien Criminal Apprehension Program (ACAP). IRP covered about 30 federal institutions and a limited number of state institutions. ACAP was responsible for the identification, processing, prosecution, and removal of all criminal aliens in institutions not participating in the IRP. [In 2007, IRP and ACAP were combined into the Criminal Alien Program (see below)].
• The Immigration Act raised legal admissions to 50 percent above the pre-IRCA level (mainly in the category of employment-based immigrants), eased controls on temporary workers, and limited the government’s power to deport immigrants for ideological reasons.