Multi-American | 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.

Bill Ong Hing, a law professor at the University of San Francisco and one of the editors of the ImmigrationProf Blog, wrote in an opinion piece yesterday in the Huffington Post:
The events of 9/11 and the ensuing call to action from the anti-immigrant lobby resulted in far-reaching legislative and enforcement actions. These enforcement actions had implications not only for suspected terrorists but also for immigrants already in the United States and noncitizens trying to enter as immigrants or with nonimmigrant visas. The Patriot Act passed Congress with near unanimous support, and the president signed it into law a mere six weeks after 9/11. The vast powers embodied in the law provide expanded authority to search, monitor, and detain citizens and noncitizens alike, but its implementation preyed most heavily on noncitizen Arabs, Muslims, and Sikhs.

Post-9/11 immigration and national security policy changes have been written about extensively since not long after the attacks, including in this 2003 report from the Migration Policy Institute that examined the challenge of preserving civil liberties alongside new security measures.