How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Immigration and the bin Laden effect: More on the changes since 9/11

Photo by The Pope/Flickr (Creative Commons)


A post on Monday outlined a few of the direct and indirect ways in which the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks orchestrated by Osama bin Laden changed the nation's immigration landscape. Legislative reaction to the attacks propelled legal and policy changes that led to tightened borders and beefed up immigration enforcement as national security took center stage. Among these changes was the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in early 2003.

In the days since, there have been other takes on immigration and the bin Laden effect. Today in a post in ColorLines, Seth Freed Wessler wrote about DHS's National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS, a program whose recent end has been applauded by Muslim groups:

Muslims in the U.S. became the most ominous threat, by policy. The Department of Homeland Security created the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), commonly called “Special Registration,” which functioned as a deportation net specifically for Muslims. As Colorlines’ Channing Kennedy wrote in April:

Initiated in September 2002, NSEERS functioned like Arizona’s SB 1070, with working-class Muslims as the target. Its first phase required all non-citizen male residents, ages 16 to 65, from a list of “suspect” nations, to register at INS offices. Thousands of families went out of their way to comply with the law, thinking it would be part of the government-sponsored pathways to citizenship that they were already participating in. Instead, in July 2003, the Washington Post reported it as the deportation of “the largest number of visitors from Middle Eastern and other Muslim countries in U.S. history—more than 13,000 of the nearly 83,000 men older than 16 who complied with the registration program by various deadlines between last September and April.”

Last week, the federal government officially ended the NSEERS program.

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Q&A: A Los Angeles Muslim community leader on the damage bin Laden caused U.S. Muslims

Salam Al-Marayati, photo courtesy of MPAC

The terrorist attacks orchestrated by Osama bin Laden affected all Americans, but they affected American Muslims in a unique way. One of the groups that has called for greater tolerance in the face of anti-Muslim sentiment and tried to clear up misperceptions is the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which has offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

The group's president, Salam Al-Marayati, addressed via e-mail today a few questions relating to the damaging effects that bin Laden's actions had on Muslims in this country, and what the future may hold now that he's gone.

M-A: The attacks of 9/11 affected everyone, but can you tell me in particular how these actions changed the way in which American Muslims live during this past decade?

Al-Marayati: We have many young Muslims who have either grown up with 9/11 impacting their identity or were born after 9/11. As a result, our image in the U.S. is dependent on the perception of how secure our nation is. With more insecurity comes anti-Muslim sentiment.

M-A: Do what degree do U.S. Muslims (and others, such as Sikhs) live in fear today as a result?

Al-Marayati: I wouldn't say fear is a driver, but more alienation and psychological ghettoization.

M-A: How have Muslims been affected not only by policies such as the Patriot Act, but by public perceptions and/or discrimination?

Al-Marayati: Tremendously, since it only reinforces the perception that Muslims are a problem in our society, either a victim or a villain.

M-A: Do you think that the death of bin Laden will have any effect, or do you think this community will subject to more of this for some time still?

Al-Marayati: We hope it is the mark of an end to a dark era and an ushering in of a new era for mutual understanding in U.S.-Muslim world relations. With the rise of democracy in the Middle East and the descent of Al-Qaeda, there is an opportunity for partnership between people in the Muslim world and in the U.S. We can't expect our governments to address issues involving culture and religion. It involves people-to-people dynamics.

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Five ways in which Osama bin Laden changed the immigration landscape

Photo by Romel Jacinto/Flickr (Creative Commons)


The direct and indirect repercussions that the late Osama bin Laden's actions in masterminding the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 have had on the agencies, policies and attitudes affecting immigrants in the United States are far too many to mention in a short list. The attacks led to the dissolution of the federal immigration infrastructure at the time, to several legislative and policy changes, and to an increasingly enforcement-heavy and divisive immigration climate.

Here are a few of the major changes:

1) The end of INS, the beginning of DHS: Criticism of the decades-old Immigration and Naturalization Service, after it it was discovered that some of the 9/11 hijackers were here on visas that shouldn't have been granted, led to the end of the INS in early 2003. The agency, which at the time governed all immigration functions from visas to border security, was replaced by the much broader Department of Homeland Security. Three sub-agencies within DHS were given authority over immigration matters: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (overseeing customs and border security, including the U.S. Border Patrol); U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, overseeing functions such as naturalization and the granting of legal residency; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, which is responsible for immigration enforcement in the United States, oversees immigrant detention and deportation, and is responsible for enforcement policies such as Secure Communities and 287(g).

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