9/11 and Change in the Dynamics of Immigration

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 11
Words: 2872
Reading time:
11 min
Study level: Bachelor


In recent history, September 11, 2001, is memorable because of the terrorist attack on American land. The incident was coordinated and executed by the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization. Four passenger jetliners were hijacked and crashed in different U.S. locations, which resulted in many deaths. The major attack took place in the city of Manhattan where two planes flew into the World Trade Center.

The twin tower collapsed a few hours after the incident. The Pentagon, which is the U.S. Military Headquarters, was the second target, when the third airplane hit on one side of the building, demolishing a section of the structure. The fourth and last jetliner crashed in Stonycreek Township field when the passengers refused to comply with the terrorists’ demands. I, therefore, argue that the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States and the resulting reforms in immigration policies have changed attitudes to immigrants and the international community of America.

Background of Immigration Policy Changes

The horrific 9/11 incident marked one of the deadliest terrorist activities not only in America but in the world as a whole. It then prompted the U.S. to take stringent actions to protect the country and its citizens from future threats. One of such measures was the change of immigration policies. The U.S. Immigration Law analyzes the American policies, their effects and the dynamic socioeconomic, cultural, political, foreign, and other factors that influence migration to the US.

The country has been trying to cope with the repercussions of adhering to the multicultural principle as it tries to determine its position regarding American Muslims and Arabs in the face of the continuing threat of Islamic terrorism (Selod 87). For a long time, immigrants from different countries have been traveling to America. Today, they contribute to the political, economic, and social presence of the United States.

Immigration to the US did reach its peak in the 19th century when Western expansion took place, while the 20th century was attributed to cities’ growth in America. Immigration in the early 20th century facilitated the development of the American economy, whereas increased globalization has also seen large-scale migration. Policies have been largely ignored because the practice is related to economic gains intended to improve the country’s economy.

Before 9/11 Attacks

Before 9/11, America was hesitant and reluctant to legislate on immigration enforcement reforms, fearing that they could lead to conflict. After the 9/11 incident, it set in place measures to curb the issue of illegal immigration as it was suspected to be connected to such attacks. The illegal immigration system, which had taken years, was not being revised. At the beginning of 1880, immigration was mainly made up of Europeans who were motivated by industrialization. Chinese later started to enter America after the discovery of gold in the city of California. In 1882, the federal government began charging fees on all prospective entrants to the United States after Congress passed the Immigration Act.

Between 1880 and 1930, the United States marked many refugees from all places around the world. At the end of the 1980s, the United States Congress established the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which its intention was to enforce penalties on companies and other employers who had unrecorded foreigners (Warren 500). IRCA also was to enhance border protection to keep illegal immigrants away while legalizing those with legal documentation. IRCA was not able to execute the tasks. IRCA was unsuccessful in all its efforts to regulate immigration (Warren 500). The IRCA’s failure to monitor the entry of illegal immigrants posed security concerns in America.

After 9/11 Attacks

After the 9/11 bombing, the United States approved several important and, at times, contentious immigration enforcement initiatives to respond to potential threats of terrorism. Due to the fact that all the terrorists who carried out the attack were those aliens who reached the United States through the legal means of travel, the identification and prevention of terrorist activity became the primary goal. Immigration legislation has been viewed largely through the government security prism, the trend which resulted in significant enhanced border security and law implementation programs.

The government increased control on visas issued by the immigration department, and monitoring of foreign visitors who are prospective migrants. Another measure was the processing and storing of data in rapidly expanding interoperable systems utilized by law application and intelligence departments (Todaro and Maruszko 107). In addition, any hope in two-party support for a complete migration overhaul, which was attaining traction in Assembly leading up to the attack, was thwarted. Since the captors on the planes were all Muslims, the instant consequence of the incident centered on Muslims and anyone considered to be of the same faith.

The United States has, indeed, reformed its immigration policies multiple times. Still, it impacts globalization because it makes it much harder for people who would like to come to the country, which somehow undermines the rights of other countries and their people. Americans have always held foreigners with a different perception; they profile certain groups of people just because of either their religion, culture or otherwise (Todaro and Maruszko 109).

The immediate reaction of the US government after the terror attack was to create Homeland Security Department, which was followed by the Customs and Border Protection Unit and, later, the Immigration Services Department. These three security bodies were tasked to screen and gather information on foreigners, hold interviews with citizens of other specific nationalities, and enable sharing information with other nations. This implementation changed the perceptions of Americans who started viewing any foreigner as a potential threat.

Major Changes

The terrorist attack on 9/11 resulted in the largest major reforms in immigration management in the federal government. The Homeland Security Department (DHS) was created by 22 federal departments (Baker and Williams). The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was disbanded, and its services were moved to Custom and Border Protection (CBP) DHS departments, which controlled unlawful crossing of goods and people in all points of entry (Landgrave and Nowrasteh). Others were the Immigration and Customs Department (ICE), whose task is to implement immigration and customs regulations and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which regulates and also monitors the E-Verify system for alien benefits. Immigrant advantages include visas, applications for citizenship, and refugee approvals.

Biometric fingerprint databases were improved, together with visa screening and border checks. To reassure further travel screening of records from individuals coming from countries affiliated with Al-Qaeda, the National Security Entry Exit Registration System (NSEERS) was enforced (Alarcón 188). Male citizens who were over 16 years old from NSEERS nations and living in America were expected to register with the federal government and be examined by immigration officials. The terror attack resulted in the annual number of visas dependent on jobs to be reduced significantly. The U.S. introduced reforms to limit nationals’ entry from Islamic countries, as they are linked to terrorist activity and have strong connections with Al-Qaeda.

From the onset, the United States had rather open borders and limits prior to 9/11. Previously, the Cold War regulated resettlement from the East to the West, until immigration was conditioned by age and the majority by jobs. It was believed that the Mexicans were the main group to enter the country through unlawful means. They were coming to find jobs in industries, the fields or farms. At first, the government ignored and allowed them in because it was one way of reducing the prices of commodities.

These foreigners were important because they provided cheaper labor (Alarcon 195). Currently, it has become almost impossible to come to America because of the new rules and regulations that are in place. For instance, the section bordering Mexico and the US is thousands of miles away from the world’s most secure and controlled border. Since 9/11 immigration policies and guidelines have undergone considerable change.

After September 11th, the Homeland Security Department was established by the government, and the collaboration of several departments was consolidated. Now non-citizen entering the country through the air, would have their fingerprints and photos taken and should also have some accountability. This had changed from the way it was before, where one needed only an affirmation and a certificate of birth for any child one is coming with. So far, all Americans of any age now have a requirement to apply for a valid visa or passport, as intelligence is increasing. There is now more knowledge and experience about the potential threats that the government is prepared to take new steps to protect the borders.

Controversial (Extreme) Measures and Criticism

As seen above, after the terrorist attack, the U.S. had to take measures that would guarantee the country’s security and the safety of its people. Some of these activities received criticism from the international community for allegedly going against individual rights. Some instances are as follows. First, there were secret detentions and hearings or proceedings, where the state detained more than 1,200 individuals after the attack, they declined to reveal names of the detainees and camps where they were held. Some of them were stopped from engaging any attorneys. Six hundred and eleven immigration proceedings were done without the presence of either the public or press.

Secret testimony, hidden from the accused and lawyers, was presented in other cases. Second, detention procedures; where several detainees who were held by the immigration department in conjunction with inquiries following the terror attack were apprehended devoid of a warrant. They were detained with no charges for extended period, some were detained notwithstanding the order of the Immigration Court to release them on bail, and retained even after their cases had been finalized. Third, country-specific actions where different post-9/11 immigration policies specifically target specific regions and specific groups.

Subsequently, underneath the Volunteer Interview Scheme, the Federal Bureau of Investigation questioned more than eight thousand non-immigrants from identified nations accused of Al-Qaeda presence (Golash-Boza 178). These interviews had spread to more than 10,000 Iraqi people. Under the special registration program for NSEERS, grown up males from twenty-five predominantly Islamic nations were needed to be registered (Alarcón 190). Besides, the individuals had their fingerprints and photographs taken at all entry points, or they had to submit in person for the same at the migration offices within the country (Alarcón 189).

Under the initiative, over 80,000 participants were questioned, and over 13,000 were put in deportation proceedings (Altangerel and van Ours 470). Correspondingly, many men from nations who were suspected Al-Qaeda involvement breached their final expulsion commands were classified by the state as absconders and put their details in the FBI registry which was to be used by national and federal authorities. Nearly everyone who was impacted by these specific practices were from the Arab and specifically Muslims.

Many of the migration initiatives aimed directly at Muslim immigrants have been eliminated. In December 2002, the optional interviewing program ended. As a section of the U.S., the “absconder strategy” currently exists. National Fugitive Operations Program by Immigration and Customs Enforcement that is not the racial background. The portion of NSEERS requiring the registration of those within the country was terminated in December 2003, and the process itself was discontinued in April 2011. Likewise, no restricted immigration hearings of the post-9/11 sort had been conducted at the end of 2002, in the United States.

The Justice Department did reduce the time during which anyone can be arrested to 90 days the government appeals to an immigration judge to issue a bond (Golash-Boza 180). But although some of the subsequent post-9/11 measures were discarded or changed by the state late on, the country has typically endured legal challenges. At this juncture, the courts granted exceptional regard to the federal government.

Immigration policy reforms period was marred with a number of court cases. In 2003, United States court of appeals in the D.C. Circuit concluded that the state’s determination not to disclose the identities of prisoners was the exception rather than the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (Landgrve and Nowrasteh). The Appealing Court in the Second Circuit ruled that extended confinement was not illegal in immigration cases; other federal judges overturned NSEERS policy. The Sixth Court of Appeals ruled that it was illegal for the U.S. to close immigrant proceedings. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals drew a different result and the United States. The Supreme Court refused to interfere with addressing the contradictory opinions of the circuit courts.

During his presidency, Obama raised the U.S. refugee resettlement quota to 85,000 for the 2016 fiscal year in the face of criticism that perhaps the U.S. allowed European and Middle Eastern countries to shoulder more of the burden of accommodating immigrants, setting aside 10,000 spots only for Syrians (Thurish 246). In 2017, the quota was anticipated to reach 100,000 people. In comparison, Germany accepted 1 million immigrants while others opposed welcoming any newcomers, expressed concern that they might be involved in terrorism and present a national security threat. Some criticized Obama for not accepting sufficient Syrian refugees.

Attitudes Toward Immigration

Significant evidence through aggregate time trends shows that anti-Muslim feelings and xenophobic violence increased significantly in the wake of the September11 attacks, even amongst the American population. The explanatory proof is also available that the 9/11 attacks had a negative effect on immigration perceptions outside U.S. borders. The studies also indicate a negative shift in public perceptions towards certain minority groups, especially Muslims. A plurality of Arab Muslim Americans admitted feeling vulnerable and insecure in the United States three years after the bombings of September 11, 2001 (Acer and Byme 365).

American citizens have made it more difficult for Muslims who do not inherently have come from outside the U.S. to feel welcomed. (Kerwin and Warren 300). Some allege that Americans only distinguish between both the Muslim people and the Muslim religion and that they view Islam as dangerous and unworthy.

Nevertheless, at the heart of the matter, it is generally easier for very many American citizens who have strong anti-discrimination standards to convey their contempt for an abstract concept. These people need not appear prejudicial to individuals by placing people from the same background and living in the US under one category and not recognizing their personality anyway. It is true that suspicion and fear has taken over; for instance, in 2017, Trump introduced an Executive Order to prohibit some foreigners from certain countries, including Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Syria and others.

Nonetheless, it was the same as bringing together everyone from a similar race and making it even more difficult for those who would like to come to the United States to make their life easier (Thurish 246). Citizens from the mentioned countries were regarded as a significant threat, and they could not be allowed to come to the United States.

It is in the country’s interest to pursue accountable and empathetic immigration laws that would effectively transform the U.S. economic and social fabric as a whole. Migrants’ challenges need to be resolved in a significant way when developing an effective policy on immigration. More following recommendations may sometimes entail integrating traditional social welfare and vocational training to assist the affected groups in adapting to any changes in the labor market due to immigration (Kerwin and Warren 303). After a comprehensive study of illegal migrants to America, it could be assumed that the US is in dire need of a major immigration overhaul. Both recorded and unrecorded employees as well as immigrants contribute to the growth of economy through labor force.

Besides, there is proof which suggests that as the number of foreigners grows, the U.S. economy continues to prosper as a result, which is why steps must be in place to include a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants residing in America. At about the same time the United States should nevertheless secure its boundaries to preserve the law and enhance security. Eventually, companies who employ unrecorded workers have to be handled with severely since they deliberately break the law by hiring illegal immigrants and also paying them poor wages.


There are many advantages and disadvantages connected with the immigration system. But the continuous efforts of both the immigrant and the host country will contribute to rapid integration. This rapid multiculturalism can be valuable and can lead to a stable life and in a peaceful environment. America requires a government that is willing to acknowledge that foreign national employees working in the United States would not harm but improves society.

The government administrators should also be willing to offer a pathway to citizenship for immigrants while ensuring that measures supporting comprehensive immigration reform are enacted in the Assembly and Congress.

The administration should protect the illegal immigrants’ rights while confronting the ones who challenge their role to the United States. The country needs a leader that can implement and improve the country’s border patrol while at the same time encouraging lawful immigrants from coming. The US immigration policy reforms limited the number of foreigners who intended to visit the country. They also allowed for stricter and tighter border protection activities, and registration of foreigners, which has made life difficult for the immigrants. According to the above information, it is clear that the immigration reforms have made both immigrants and the international community to view America as being biased against the Muslims.

Works Cited

Acer, Eleanor, and Olga Byrne. “How the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 has undermined U.S. refugee protection obligations and wasted government resources.” Journal on Migration and Human Security, vol. 5, no. 2, 2017, pp. 356-378.

Alarcón, Rafael. “US Immigration Policy and the Mobility of Mexicans (1882-2005).” Migraciones Internacionales, vol. 6, no. 20, 2017, pp. 185-218.

Altangerel, Khulan, and Jan C. Van Ours. “U.S. Immigration Reform and the Migration Dynamics of Mexican males.” De Economist, vol. 165, no. 4, 2017. pp. 463-485.

Baker, Bryan, and Christopher Williams. Immigration Enforcement Actions: 2016. Office of Immigration Statistics, 2017.

Golash-Boza, Tanya Maria. “Societies Without Borders.” Immigration Nation: Raids, Detentions, and Deportations in Post-9/11 America, Routledge, 2015, pp. 174-185.

Kerwin, Donald, and Robert Warren. “National Interests and Common Ground in the U.S. Immigration Debate: How to Legalize the U.S. Immigration System and Permanently Reduce its Undocumented Population.” Journal on Migration and Human Security, vol. 5, no. 2, 2017. pp. 297-330.

Landgrave, Michelangelo, and Alex Nowrasteh. “Criminal Immigrants: Their Numbers, Demographics, And Countries of Origin.Cato Institute. Web.

Selod, Saher. “Citizenship Denied: The Racialization of Muslim American Men and Women Post-9/11.” Critical Sociology, vol. 41, no. 1, 2015. pp. 77-95.

Thurish, Glenn. “Trump’s New Travel Ban Blocks Migrants from Six Nations, Sparing Iraq.” Supreme Court Preview, 2017, p. 246.

Warren, Robert. “Zero Undocumented Population Growth is Here to Stay and Immigration Reform Would Preserve and Extend these Gains.” Journal on Migration and Human Security, vol. 5 no. 2, 2017. pp. 491-508.