Essay on The Impact of Terrorism on Immigration

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The Impact of Terrorism on Immigration

Always on the lookout for opportunities to press their case, anti-immigration advocates lost no time after the attacks of September 11. As one of them pointed out in testimony before the Senate,

It seems clear that the 19 terrorists of September 11 were all foreign citizens and entered the United States legally, as tourists, business travelers, or students. This was also true of the perpetrators of previous terrorist acts . . . While it is absolutely essential that we not scapegoat immigrants, especially Muslim immigrants, we also must not overlook the most obvious fact: the current terrorist threat to the United States comes almost exclusively from individuals who arrive from abroad. Thus,
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Instead, the President pointedly visited a mosque and the Mayor of New York admonished the city's residents not to seek revenge on Arabs or Muslims. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, insisted that "Immigrants are not the problem, terrorists are the problem."3

Even as he announced a crackdown on illegal immigration and tightened visa procedures, President Bush made the same distinction: "We welcome legal immigrants but we don't welcome people who come to hurt Americans." However, measures undertaken to enhance security by tightening admission procedures as well as to search for the enemy within led to the targeting of Muslims and Middle Easterners, broadly speaking. Moreover, the U.S. refugee resettlement program ground to a halt, "leaving thousands of refugees overseas in dangerous limbo, straining the limited resources of agencies that resettle them, and exacerbating the decline in annual U.S. refugee admissions for yet another year."4

Quite literally, none of the hijackers nor any of the other suspects identified so far qualifies as a full-fledged "immigrant," in the sense of someone who was admitted to the United States for permanent
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