In his September 12 Immigration Daily blogging post, Attorney Nolan Rappaport, a distinguished immigration law expert and former Congressional immigrant staffer who was active in the subsequent effort to remedy some of the harsher and more draconian anti-immigrant provisions of the 1996 Republican - originated immigration law IIRIRA (Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act), tries to connect Hillary Clinton with that statute on the basis of the fact that it was signed by her husband, then president Bill Clinton.

In his comment posted in response to someone else's comment on his post, Nolan goes ever further in trying to tie both Clinton's to approval of, if not endorsement of a bill which Nolan himself accurately calls a one-sided Republican immigration law in the same article.

Specifically, quotes statements by both Bill Clinton and his chief of staff, Leon Panetta, as signifying approval of the immigration enforcement aspects of the bill. In his comment on his own article, he then elaborates as follows

"Hillary talks about Trump breaking up American families by deporting undocumented aliens, but I don't hear her talking about families being broken up by aggravated felony removals for offenses that weren't aggravated felonies when they were committed. " [an obvious reference to one of the harshest and most unfair immigration enforcement provision of IIRIRA]

In the same comment on his own article, Nolan also writes:

"Isn't it interesting that Bill Clinton signed the bill that had IIRIRA in it? Apparently he liked the Republicans' get tough on illegal immigration approach. If he expressed the same opinion today, he would be called a bigot, a racist, and who knows what else."

The obvious implications are that a) Bill Clinton signed IIRIRA voluntarily because he agreed with this harsh Republican immigrant bill;, and, b) Hillary Clinton, whose husband signed this law 20 years ago, is allegedly reluctant to criticize one of its worst and most notorious provisions, namely that making deportation mandatory for lawful permanent residents who have, even before the law was enacted (think ex post facto) committed "aggravated felonies" (a term which can also include relatively minor misdemeanors in certain instances).

Nolan must be given credit for his ingenuity in devising an attack on Hillary Clinton's alleged immigration policies from the left for what he suggests is her implied support for IIRIRA, signed by her husband 20 years ago, or at least her alleged reluctance to criticize one ot is worst and most draconian provisions. But there us only one problem with Nolan's thesis:

His above suggestions are not supported either by the history of how IIRIRA came to be enacted into law, or by anything that Hillary Clinton has said or proposed.

To begin with the obvious, there is not the slightest shred of evidence that Hillary Clinton, who was First Lady in 1996 and had not yet begun her own political career, had anything whatsoever to do with the enactment of IIRIRA. Nor, to the best of my knowledge, has she ever done or said anything which could possibly be interpreted as indicating support for IIRIRA's notorious "aggravated felony" mandatory removal provision.

Her only possible connection to IIRIRA as that she was married to the president who signed it.

Therefore, we have to look at the question whether Bill Clinton signed IIRIRA because he really thought it was a good bill, or whether he did so because he had no choice - that IIRIRA was, in effect, a Republican gun pointed at his head, in the form of a rider attached to an omnibus government appropriations bill with important funding for government agencies, anti-terrorist, anti-crime, pro-education and other essential government activities that were not directly related to immigration policy and had nothing to do with IIRIRA.

As Nolan points out in his article, IIRIRA was part of a larger bill. Indeed it was part of a much larger bill - one that was virtually veto-proof, reaching President Clinton's desk just a little over a month before the 1996 presidential election.

For a fuller description of the many other, non-immigration related issues covered in this large appropriations bill, vetoing which might even, conceivably, have led to a partial government shutdown just befrore the election, see the statement of Bill Clinton's Chiof Staff, Leon Panetta:

Yes, Bill Clinton and Leon Panetta may have tried to put a favorable gloss on some of the enforcement provisions of IIRIRA, while at the same time taking credit for weakening or watering down the bill.

But did Bill Clinton sign IIRIRA because he enthusiastically supported it, as Nolan suggests? Or was it because Hillary's husband had little or no choice but to sign it?
Roger Algase is New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 35 years, he has been helping mainly skillied and professional immigrants obrain work visas and green cards.Roger's email address is