National security shapes immigration policy post 9-11
May 20, 2010
Following the terrorist attacks of 9-11, the United States enacted a series of laws as part of the war on terror. According to one Ryerson University researcher, this legislation has had an unforeseen impact on America’s immigrants and immigration policies.
Karim Ismaili, chair of Ryerson's Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, is the author of a research study that explores the U.S. government's treatment of asylum seekers, refugees and other resident non-citizens after 9-11. Ismaili turned his attention to immigration and security issues immediately after 9-11 while teaching at a university in New York City.
"U.S. immigration policy was redefined as a matter of national security post 9-11," said Ismaili.
"Rather than viewing immigration as a positive force contributing to the well-being of the nation, post 9-11 the perception of immigrants, particularly unauthorized immigrants, became increasingly associated with issues of safety, security and law enforcement."
According to Ismaili's research study, the approach to U.S. immigration policy post 9-11 has been marked by a shift away from shaping demographic and population levels to focusing on security and risk management. With the passage of the USA Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act, the zero-tolerance strategies associated with the criminal justice system have been imported into the immigration system. As a result, immigration controls have tightened considerably since 9-11, often with tremendous social costs for an increasingly vulnerable population across the United States.
"I fear that refugees are now viewed with skepticism rather than compassion," said Ismaili.
Ismaili thinks that without large-scale immigration reform, change isn't likely to happen in the U.S. in the foreseeable future. "Once immigration control and criminal justice issues merge, it's difficult to scale back the response," said Ismaili.
The study, Surveying the Many Fronts of the War on Immigrants in Post-9/11 U.S. Society, was published in the March issue of Contemporary Justice Review.
For more research stories, check out the 2010 edition of Intersections, Ryerson's research magazine.
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