National Security and Immigration in the United States after 9/11 (Working Paper #157)

Chris Rudolph, American University

Introduction: The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 had a profound effect on American National Security and immigration’s relation to it. Prior to 2001, “securitizing” international migration was largely considered the discourse strategy of restrictionists and xenophobes. Now, however, it is widely accepted that international migration has significant implications for security. Of course, it can be argued that migration has long had security implications, and that immigration and border policies were strongly influenced by security interests (Rudolph, 2006). However, the events of 9/11 have raised the stakes considerably on what has long been a contentious issue—economically, socially, and politically.

The 9/11 Commission Report (National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, 2004) outlined the loopholes and cracks in the American system of migration and border control that the September 11 terrorists were able to exploit in order to carry out their mission (see also Flynn, 2004). All nineteen hijackers had visas to enter the United States. However, eight had passports that shoed evidenced of fraudulent manipulations, and another five had “suspicious indicators.” Some were known Al Qaeda operatives, yet somehow were either not included on government watch lists or managed to avoid apprehension if they were listed. More broadly, studies have shown that terrorists have not only exploited loopholes in the U.S. immigration and border control system, but have been able to use all available channels of entry in order to infiltrate the country(Camarota, 2002; Kephart, 2005). Without a doubt, migration has been increasingly recognized as a potential vector for the spread of global terrorism, and control over the entry of persons across the border represents the front line of defense in terms of homeland security interests. But what effects did the 9/11 attacks have on U.S. immigration and border policy more generally?

This paper seeks to explain immigration and border policy development since September 11, 2001 through a national security framework (Rudolph, 2003; 2006).

Working Paper #157 »