In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, many Americans became hostile toward immigration because the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks exploited gaping security holes in the U.S. immigration system. Border security became both an immediate and long-term concern, as the borders with Canada and Mexico were closed for days. Since then, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which handled immigration prior to 9/11, has been subsumed under the Department of Homeland Security, and reformulated into several new agencies, including the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Miller, 2005).
By bringing immigration control under the header of Homeland Security, the U.S. government has reaffirmed its understanding of uncontrolled immigration as a threat to the nation. The government has pursued strategies to contain undocumented immigration primarily through the fortification of border enforcement at the US-Mexico border, but also by implanting increasingly restrictive legislation targeting “criminal” immigrants, undocumented or otherwise (Miller, 2005).
Some members of Congress are pushing for further action. They would like to see the U.S. perform extensive background checks on potential immigrants as well as create a tamperproof visa containing biometric data such a facial screens or thumbprints to prevent impostors from gaining entry. They also want the Department of Homeland Security to move ahead with two major technology initiatives, an automated entry-exit system at border crossings and a Student Exchange Visitor Information System, also known as SEVIS, an Internet-based system that will make it easier for universities to monitor their foreign students more closely.
During the spring of 2013, eight members of congress proposed a new comprehensive immigration bill, meant to address the estimated 11 million immigrants who currently live in the U.S. without authorization and to handle continuing flows, documented or otherwise, of immigrants into the nation. Included in the bill is a 13 year pathway to citizenship for currently undocumented immigrants, a stricter set of employer sanctions to discourage the hiring of undocumented immigrants, guest worker programs to bring desirable laborers into the nation, and the continued and heightened use of border enforcement to control cross-border movement, among many other provisions (Matthews, 2013). The bill was approved by the Senate on June 27th, 2013.
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