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February 25, 2007

Immigration Reform, National Security After September 11, And the Future of North American Integration

The events of September 11, 2001 marked a watershed moment in United States history. In the wake of these events, and in an attempt to soothe the understandably tense and rattled nerves of the American public, nearly all political focus was placed on improving national security. As a consequence of this shift in focus, both the Government and a majority of the public became ready and willing to trade off civil liberties--particularly those of minorities--in exchange for a feeling of greater safety and security. This has resulted, in the five years since September 11, in some of the most egregious and reprehensible violations of civil rights this nation has seen in its entire history: the Patriot Act; Special Registration of Male Arabs and Muslims in the U.S.; and the ever-expanding, secretive and selective electronic surveillance efforts by the Bush Administration.

As part of a symposium on national security, the reports for which are soon to be published by the Minnesota Law Review, Law Professors Kevin Johnson (Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, University of California, Davis) and Bernard Trujillo (University of Wisconsin) analyze this turn of events, and focus in particular on the toll on immigration law this national security emphasis has taken. Prior to September 11, the authors argue, Congress was in the process of liberalizing the restricitive immigration laws of 1996; but after that date, the momentum for positive immigration reform was lost, and not only came to a screeching halt, but actually reversed course. Rather than becoming more liberal and humane, immigration laws became increasingly more restrictive, as immigrants became the scapegoat for all the ills of the country. To be pro-immigrant was to be unpatriotic, it was argued, despite the fact that the United States was built on the backs of immigrants, and was founded as a nation of immigrants, a veritable "melting pot."

To rectify this situation, and to return clarity to the country's vision regarding its immigrant foundation without sacrificing national security, the authors argue that what is necessary is a truly comprehensive immigration reform program, one that legalizes the undocumented population and brings them out of the shadows, and one that adopts immigration policies that help, rather than alienate, this country's immigrants.

A summary of the report is available on the Social Science Research Network website;

Posted by VisaLawyer at February 25, 2007 12:45 PM


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