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An immigration attorney's take on the post-9/11 era

The Immigration Daily website, a news source for immigration attorneys, has posted an interesting essay from a New York attorney who remembers September 11, 2001 like it was yesterday - and the decade that followed, from an immigration lawyer's perspective.

Cyrus D. Mehta writes about how he was leaving his Manhattan apartment the morning of the World Trade Center attacks when a neighbor broke the terrible news to him. He goes on to write that while "the basic underlying architecture of American immigration law" did not change afterward, the laser focus on national security since has in essence prevented the fixing of a broken system. Some plans never materialized, like the extension of a provision that would have allowed many to adjust their immigration status. Mehta writes:

While the immigration system was left intact, including the draconian provisions from the 1996 immigration law, the September 11 attacks unfortunately prevented it from being improved and to keep pace with globalization.

The 245(i) extension that was about to happen the week before September 11 never saw the light of day. The deal that was made between Presidents Bush and Vicente to legalize the status of millions of productive undocumented immigrants was put into cold storage.

The immigration system continued to break, and then crash, but Congress was never interested in fixing it, perhaps based on a subconscious fear that immigration equated to terrorism.

The immigrant visa preferences remain hopelessly oversubscribed resulting in waits lasting more than a decade. The H-1B cap limit of 65,000 has never been expanded, save for an additional measly 20,000 under a special advance degree cap. Several efforts to achieve Comprehensive Immigration Reform in Congress have failed. The last effort to pass the DREAM Act in December 2010 also failed.

Even business immigration, which can spur growth and more jobs, has gotten bogged down because of national security concerns.

There are admittedly other forces also at work. The sluggish economy, along with joblessness, can also serve as a disincentive for immigration reform, along with nativist backlash. But the main bogeyman has been national security, largely as a result of the trauma caused by the 9/11 attacks.