The 212(c) waiver, a crucial tool in immigration law, played a significant role in granting relief to lawful permanent residents facing deportation. However, its elimination in 1996 as a result of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) had far-reaching consequences for many individuals seeking relief from removal proceedings. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind the elimination of the 212(c) waiver and assess its impact on the immigrant community.

What is the 212(c) Waiver?

Before delving into the reasons and impact, let’s establish a clear understanding of what the 212(c) waiver was. The 212(c) waiver allowed lawful permanent residents who had been convicted of certain crimes to request relief from deportation based on their strong ties to the United States and other equities. This provision was especially important for long-time residents with established lives in the country.

Reasons for Elimination

The elimination of the 212(c) waiver can be attributed to several factors:

1. Shift in Immigration Policy

With the enactment of the IIRIRA, there was a significant shift in U.S. immigration policy. The focus moved towards stricter enforcement and deterrence of criminal behavior among immigrants. The 212(c) waiver was seen as a hindrance to this new approach, as it allowed some individuals with criminal convictions to avoid deportation.

2. Ambiguity and Inconsistencies

Another reason for the elimination of the 212(c) waiver was the ambiguity and inconsistencies in its application. The discretion given to immigration judges often led to unequal outcomes, with some individuals being granted relief while others were denied, creating a perception of unfairness.

3. Legal Challenges

The 212(c) waiver faced legal challenges that questioned its constitutionality. Courts were divided on the issue, and the elimination of the waiver resolved some of the legal uncertainties surrounding its use.

Impact of the Elimination

The elimination of the 212(c) waiver had a profound impact on the immigrant community:

1. Increased Deportations

One of the most significant consequences of the elimination was the increase in deportations of lawful permanent residents with criminal convictions. Many individuals who would have been eligible for relief under the 212(c) waiver were now subject to deportation without any form of relief.

2. Limited Opportunities for Rehabilitation

The elimination of the waiver also limited opportunities for rehabilitation and reintegration into society for those with criminal records. Without the possibility of relief, individuals faced significant challenges in rebuilding their lives.

3. Calls for Reform

The impact of the elimination prompted calls for immigration reform. Advocates argued for the reinstatement of a similar form of relief for long-time residents who had made positive contributions to their communities.


The elimination of the 212(c) waiver was a pivotal moment in U.S. immigration policy. While it aimed to address concerns related to criminal behavior among immigrants, it had far-reaching consequences for lawful permanent residents with criminal convictions. Understanding the reasons behind its elimination and its impact on the immigrant community is crucial for ongoing discussions on immigration reform. As an immigration and criminal defense attorney with experience in New York and New Jersey, I have witnessed firsthand the challenges faced by individuals affected by this change in the law. It is my hope that this article sheds light on the complexities surrounding the 212(c) waiver and its elimination.

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Feel free to use these links to access the articles and explore their content.

  1. The Significance of 212a6ci Material Misrepresentation in U.S. Immigration
  2. A Deep Dive into Section 212a3c of the Immigration and Nationality Act
  3. How to Apply for the 212a6ci Waiver: A Step-by-Step Guide
  4. Cancellation of Removal: An Alternative to the 212c Waiver for Aggravated Felonies
  5. Navigating the Rehabilitation Requirement for a 212c Waiver
  6. Understanding the 212c Waiver for Aggravated Felonies in Immigration Law
  7. Crimes and Deportation: Navigating the Intersection after 212c Waiver
  8. Current Immigration Laws: Understanding the Aftermath of the 212c Waiver Removal
  9. Deportation Relief Alternatives: Exploring Options Beyond 212c Waiver
  10. The Elimination of the 212c Waiver: Reasons and Impact
  11. The History and Origins of the 212c Waiver
  12. Discretionary Waivers and Reopening of Applications before a Final Order of Deportation under 212 (c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act P Wong – 1994 – HeinOnline