The current crisis of undocumented immigration to the United States has its roots in fundamental misunderstandings about the causes of immigration and the motivations of immigrants. A growing body of evidence indicates that current border enforcement policies are based on mistaken assumptions and have failed. Undocumented migrants continue to come to the United States, rates of apprehension are at all-time lows, and migrants are settling in the United States at higher rates than ever before. Developing effective and realistic immigration policies requires overcoming five basic myths about immigration.
New proposals for more fencing and Border Patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border may only perpetuate an unsuccessful and counterproductive policy that does not effectively enhance national security or control undocumented immigration.
In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. government began a campaign of aggressive immigration enforcement targeted at Muslims, Arabs and South Asians. Rather than first seeking to identify suspected terrorists, the government initiated harsh law enforcement actions against whole communities with the hope that some of those caught might be terrorist suspects.
Children who travel unaccompanied to the United States experience not only the trauma of family separation and the frequently predatory behavior of the traffickers who bring them, but also harsh treatment by an immigration bureaucracy that often incarcerates them with little access to legal counsel or professional support.
In the hours following the deadly terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States government took the extraordinary step of sealing U.S. borders to traffic and trade by grounding all aircraft flying into or out of the country and imposing a lock-down on the networks of transportation and commerce that are the lifeblood of our economy and society. Given the uncertainty over what might happen next, these emergency procedures were a necessary and appropriate short-term response to the attacks.
After September 11th, efforts to reach an immigration accord with Mexico came to a halt. As a result, the Bush administration continues a poorly conceived border-enforcement strategy from the 1990s that ignores U.S. economic reality, contributes to hundreds of deaths each year among border crossers, does little to reduce undocumented migration or enhance national security, increases profits for immigrant smugglers, and fails to support the democratic transition that the administration of Vicente Fox represents for Mexico.
Some of the restrictive policies toward non-citizens implemented after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 – particularly those affecting visa processing and others targeting Muslims and Arabs – may undermine U.S. foreign policy in the long term. According to foreign policy experts, these policies risk damaging U.S. relations with the international community without enhancing national security.
Americans are rightfully proud of our nation's higher education system. Scholars come to the U.S. from all over the world and we have historically educated many of the world's leaders. But the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have created new challenges that threaten our position as the premier higher education destination in the world.