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, our immigration policy, including temporary and permanent visas issuance, border control, and efforts to deal with illegal immigration are all critical to reducing the chance of an attack in the future".1
On a more extreme note, Pat Buchanan urged an immediate moratorium on all immigration, an expansion of the Border Patrol to 20,000, a radical reduction of visas issued to nationals of states that harbor terrorists, and the expedited deportation of "the eight-to-11 million illegal aliens, beginnings with those from rogue nations." Moreover, "President Bush's amnesty proposal" - a reference to ongoing negotiations between the United States and Mexico for a new immigration program, which might include legalization of unauthorized residents - should be quietly interred".2
In the country at large, the attacks unleashed a spate of aggressions against people who were seen as resembling the terrorists or believed to sympathize with them, occasionally with tragic consequences. Overall, Washington responses were restrained, but nevertheless ambiguous. Unlike in previous surges of nationalism provoked by international conflicts, most notoriously with regard to ethnic Japanese (including American citizens) in the wake of Pearl Harbor, there were no moves to restrict immigration properly speaking or to cast suspicion on nationality groups wholesale. 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,...