Firstand Last Name


Immigrationand Terrorism in the US

Immigrationis a demographic phenomenon in which people move into a country notof their parental, citizenry or previous residence. This makes it acomplex phenomenon as different people move into a country fordifferent reasons, for different durations of time. In 2012 alone,1.03milion people obtained legal permanent residence in the US. Thisis one of the highest immigration statistics in the world. The US,like most other developed nations, has a low or negative organicpopulation growth and must therefore rely on immigration to fulfillits labor requirements. This is particularly so in the nursing andhospitality industry in which labor mechanization hasn’t beenwidespread. In the US, immigration can broadly be categorized in two,legal and illegal. Legal immigrants are persons whose movement intothe US is authorized and supported by the government through thevarious immigration mandates1.

Illegalimmigration is unsupported and as much as possible discouraged by thegovernment. It involves movement of any persons into the US whosepresence there is contrary to any of the various legislativeprovisions governing international movement of persons into the US.Usually, this legislation maybe with respect to requisite travel orimmigration documents, reasons for visits, as well as securityrequirements such as those embedded in various anti-terrorism laws. Terrorism has become an issue of serious international concern notjust in the US, but in most other countries2.One of the most serious terrorism activities in the US history is theterrorist bombing of the twin towers in 2001 in which more than 2,000citizens lost their lives and hundreds of thousands were directlyaffected. Since then, the US government has put serious measures toensure the safety of its citizens from terrorism related activities,and immigration is one of the leading avenues of perpetration ofterrorism3.This paper will look at immigration in the US with a special focus onits relationship with terrorism.

Historyof Immigration

TheUS probably has the richest blend of racial diversity of all theregions in the world, except a few other regions in which racialdiversity maybe higher, mostly small areas of municipalities andmetropolis. But on a grand geographical scale, the US has one of thehighest ethnic diversity in the world. The movement of the differentpeoples into the US, whether freely or under duress, as well as thedisplacement and reduction of the aborigines through wars anddiseases carried by immigrants, has happened over different periodsin the course of US history4.This section will split down the history of immigration into the US,starting from the pre-nationhood days when the declaration ofindependence had not been signed and the various US regions existedas colonies of foreign nations, to this day when immigration to theUS is highly individualized and by sophisticated intelligence systemscoordinated globally.

Movementinto the US started on a large scale after Christopher Columbusexplored the land. The bulk of immigrants since then were fromEuropean countries such as France, Germany, and Portugal amongothers5.These settlers established themselves into elaborate colonies whichexpanded into territories occupied by other colonies of differentorigin. The result was conflicts that often gravitated into wars. Inthe course of these conflicts, many of the aboriginal people weredisplaced from their ancestral land, a process that has continued formany centuries until after the US government declared certainterritories occupied by aborigines such as the native Red Indians asreserved land. In these habitats, these people are able to live inthe manner they did before the immigration of other human groups6.

Numerousdisease outbreaks also greatly reduced the number of natives, whoseimmune systems were alien to diseases typically carried by Europeans. Following this, the population of the USA at the beginning of thesecond millennium was reduced. Only after the massive immigration ofEuropeans did the population started to rise. In the 17thcentury, more than 400,000 people immigrated into the USA. Most ofthe people who migrated into the US in the following two centurieswere indentured servants who served the residents as personalservants. Some studies have suggested that close to one millionpeople immigrated to the US in the seventeenth century, while othershave estimated it as significantly less, as little as half a millionin some instances. In 1790, an Act of parliament passed the effectivenaturalization of free white persons as legitimate citizens of theUS. This naturalization process was not holistic, but expanded toinclude the blacks in the mid 19thcentury and Asians in the mid 20thcentury.

Theimmigration of blacks, especially those of African descent, into theUS was mainly during the Trans Atlantic Trade which spanned severalcenturies, but was mainly concentrated in the 18thcentury. Therefore, most of these persons had no rights, and weretreated as thus long after the 1790 Act came into being. Apart fromthe slave trade related immigrations, the other significantly largewave of immigration was from the European refugees escaping wars andother calamitous events in the various part of Europe. As many as 30million people moved to the US between 1836 and 1914. Following sharpincreases in migration, as well as a changed in demographiccomposition of persons living in the US, the government saw the needto enact control, and did this in 1875 through the enactment of PageAct of 18757.The Page Act maybe considered being the first decisive legislation bythe US authorities to control the nature of immigrants entering theterritory. In particular, the Page Act specifically defined‘undesirable immigrants’. Interestingly, the three major classesof undesirable people are people who today cannot be classified assuch except in special instances of terrorism or other extremismconsidered sympathetic to terrorism. In the Act, an undesirableperson was any convict from another country, any Asian womanconsidered to be migrating with the intent of engaging inprostitution, as well as any Asian coming to be a forced laborer.

Evidently,this law was specifically targeting the then prevalent influx ofcheap Chinese labor as well as what was called Chinese immorality.This legislation imposed fines of up to $2,000 or jail terms notexceeding one year or both to persons who engaged in the movement ofChinese persons into the US without their free consent for thepurpose of committing them to forced labor, or for purposes of havingthem engage in prostitution within the boundaries of the US. Whilethe ban on Chinese labor was only significantly effective, the ban onimmigration of Chinese women was highly successful. This law led todecline of Chinese women and subsequently the number of descendantsof Chinese intermarriages with US nationals8.

Thenext immigration law enacted in the US was the Immigration Act of1924. This one was more comprehensive and not focused on a narrowspectrum of immigrants like the Page Act of 1875. By the year 1910,there were already more than 10 million immigrants living in the US.This Act was an antecedent of the Emergence Quota Act already inforce in 1924. This Act was mainly aimed at restricting the movementinto the US of European immigrants, particularly Jews and Italians.In the following decades, Europeans escaping Nazi violence between1938 and 1945 were also barred from entering the US9.During all this time, the US restricted immigration mostly only tolimit the influx of huge numbers of people who would impose hugeburdens on the economy, as well as control ordinary crime andinsecurity in the country, as opposed to controlling terrorism. Inthe contemporary times, terrorism was not defined in its presentterms, neither was it as widespread. By 1930, following the lengthydecade of the Great Depression, immigration in to the US was greatlyreduced. By the end of the 1930s, the US government realized the needfor immediate control of immigration, and introduced variousemigration policies including the Mexico Expatriation program throughwhich hundreds of thousands were allowed movement to Mexico10.

RecentImmigration and Terrorism

Terrorismhas shaped international policy for the US and especially in the lasttwo decades following the September 11 attacks. Thus, immigration hasbeen subjected to scrutiny and strict regulation to minimize chancesof terrorist attacks in the US. As with any other nation, immigrationinto the US is largely dependent on land boundaries. Though themajority of borders leading into the US are controlled by the USborder patrol, other state organs including the Federal Bureau ofInvestigation (FBI), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and NationalTransport Security Administration (NTSA) among others are activelyengaged in security issues. The Transport Administration Authority isin the front line of securing border access in all points of entry,including land, water and air. Comprehensive databases exists thathelp map criminal and terrorism profiles. The US Department ofHomeland Security is mandated with patrolling all borders, andensuring that every person’s details are matched with theinternational consuls and embassies to ensure they do not have aterrorist or terrorist-sympathetic profile before admitting them intothe country11.The Department of Homeland Security manages 21,186 customs and bordermanagement officers throughout the US, as well as manning more than21,000 patrol agents. The 2013 year US budget had allocations above$35 billion to fund the Homeland Security department, including rollout of newer technology to combat screening activities for personsentering the US, as well as streamlining of systems and databasesthroughout the department’s diverse network of office and patrolpoints to ensure that information update was effective and timelythroughout the US.

Ensuringborder security, as well as facilitating tour and travel, is amongthe department’s core mandates. Recently, the department has used$769 in year 2013 to enhance cyber security, the newest avenue ofperpetration of terrorism activities12.The department has rolled out a program called E- Verify Self Checkwhich enables persons registered with the department to perform self-screening to know their rating in terms of security threats, andeligibility for employment in the US. This is for persons already inthe US. This program is an important step forward considering that ahigh percentage of persons now considered being terrorists or harborterrorist intentions were persons genuinely clearly to reside in theUS either using visitors or study Visas. Thus, immigration regulationefforts in the view of countering terrorism are not unidirectional,but have also a direction of internal focus. The South-West Border,or the area forming the boundary between Mexico and the US, is thebiggest porous point of illegal immigration into the US13.Surprisingly, the majority of terrorist activities in the US have nothappened due to persons whose point of entry was at the Mexico- USborder. In contrast, most people with terrorist intentions enteringthe US have done so through legitimate avenues. For instance, some ofthe persons believed to have masterminded the September 11 attackswere in the US under genuine study Visas. The larger majority ofillegal immigrants in the US that have come through the poroussouthwest border have only been occasionally associated with ordinarycrime and drug abuse, not major terrorism activities14.

Therewere more than 8 million illegal immigrants between 2000 and 2005into the US. Close to half of these did not even have supportingdocuments to allow them into the US. The US government has grantedlegal residence to close to 1 million of these by year 2012, andcould extend this to several other million in the ongoing amnesties.By 2012, the regions sending the highest number of legal migrantsinto the US are Mexico, China, India, Africa and the Americas.According to the Department of Homeland Security in 2012, there were221 crossings in which at least one person had terrorist convictionsin the US, and 264 persons with direct terrorism convictions. Thereport also noted that 80% of these migrations involved male personswho were married, of median age 31 years, and median academicqualification High School. Surprisingly, only 11% of all arrests wereof people previously arrested in the US or in their country oforigin. There were as many as 29 different countries of origin forthe persons arrested15.

ImmigrationTerrorism Screening

Thisscreening process is conducted in all Pedestrian and Automobile Portsof Entry16. Immigrants queue for screening where vehicles identification andradio signals installed are processed by the immigration officials toidentify persons and vehicles through a vast database of comparison.A canine unit may also be present in points with higher risks of drugentry. Once a vehicle or person is marked by a dog as a high drugrisk case, the person or vehicle is isolated for secondary screening.The NTSA also administers scans at borders and airports in which allcargo and persons are scanned to reveal weapons and drugs inserted inphysically inaccessible areas17.Cargo carried on board vehicles is also subjected to thoroughphysical and X-Ray scan at every entry port to ensure no weapons orweapon elements are admitted. This includes chemicals and physicalmaterial such as metallic parts and explosives18.

Itis important to note that a significant percentage of all borderconvictions in terrorism related actions involve persons exiting thecountry, and not entering the country as the common expectation maybe. Thus, in 2012 for instance, 92 out of the 221 cases involvingterrorism netted in the border management initiative involved personstrying to leave the US19.The analysis also reveal that the highest number of personsattempting to cross were of European and Central/South Americanorigin, 19 were of North American origin, 19 of middle East andAfrica origin, 8 were south Asian in origin and 1 of sub-SaharanAfrica origin. This also goes contrary to the long held notion ofassociation of terrorist groups with Islamic extremists, though themost widely vocal of them have a Muslim descent and profess Muslimfaith in their basic composition. By year 2004 and the decade since,the largest number of terrorist sympathetic immigrants has done sothrough the airports, while water and land share percentage. The dataalso show that year 2004 was the first year when more terrorists werecaptured at the border than not, showing that the federal systemshave progressively become more successful in combating terroristsusing the borders20.


Whilethe issue of terrorism is one that has an internal as well as anexternal dimension, it is important for the US government to use allavailable mechanisms to prevent the part of it that is perpetratedthrough the US Borders. There exist a big percentage of persons withterrorist agenda already living in the US, as evidenced by the DHSstatistics in year 2012. It is also true to note that many personsharboring terrorist intentions are of American origin, whether the USor South America. This means that terrorism is still growing withinthe American boundaries and efforts by the government to predict,detect and manage internally originated terrorism should becoordinated with efforts to combat externally originated terrorism.This is despite the fact that in the current standing, the highernumber of convicted terrorist activities has been perpetrated bypersons with external origin. In the future, however, the cases ofterrorist activities that have risen out of persons already grantedresidence legally in the US and whose risk rating according toethnicity, history and past convictions is low. This is supported bypast cases where a rising number of persons involved in terrorism inthe US could not readily be suspected of having such intentions.

TheUS government’s efforts to combat terrorism through the variousagencies, especially the Department of Homeland Security and allstate agencies working under it have borne good results in the lastdecade. Hundreds of thousands of terrorist linked activities havebeen detected and managed every year, while millions more have beenaverted through the efficiency of the systems. However, terrorismtoday has take newer, more drastic and sophisticated avenues,including cyber terrorism which is much more difficult to contain ordetect using the conventional mechanism. For this reason, thedepartment of homeland security should continually revise its tacticsto ensure a safer US, including enlarging the definition of nationalBoundary to include a national cyberspace boundary preventing allnetworks in which the state and its people has a great interest andwhose compromise would have grave consequences.


AltunNurullah and Huseyin Cinoglu, Terrorism, International Migration andBorder Control. EuropeanScientific JournalJuly 2013 edition vol.9,No.20

DanielGriswold,Don’t Blame Immigrants for Terrorism,2001.Web. Available at

Farnam,Julie. U.S. ImmigrationLaws Under the Threat of Terrorism,Algora Publishing, 2005

FranklinDavid, US relaxes strict rules on potential immigrants with limitedterrorist link, TheGuardian,2014, Available at

Guerette,Mr R T and Professor Joshua D Freilich. Migration,Culture Conflict, Crime and Terrorism ,Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2013 p.3

LeeJohn, Terrorismand illegal immigration in the United States,2013, web.

MartinSusan, InternationalMigration and Terrorism: Prevention, Prosecution and Protection,2014. Web. Available at

MigrationPolicy Institute, Background Paper: Immigration and NationalSecurity, Washington, 2001,

NwosuChiamaka, FrequentlyRequested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the UnitedStates.2014. Web. Available at

OzerenSuleyman, UnderstandingTerrorism: Analysis of Sociological and Psychological Aspects,IOS Press, 2007

1 Farnam, Julie. U.S. Immigration Laws Under the Threat of Terrorism, Algora Publishing, 2005, p.94

2 Ibid

3 Martin Susan, International Migration and Terrorism: Prevention, Prosecution and Protection, 2014. Web. P.1

4 Ibid

5 Guerette, Mr R T and Professor Joshua D Freilich. Migration, Culture Conflict, Crime and Terrorism , Ashgate Publishing, Ltd p.3

6 Migration Policy Institute, Background Paper: Immigration and National Security, Washington, 2001, p.10

7 Migration Policy Institute p. 14

8 Nwosu Chiamaka, Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States. 2014. Web p.1

9 Daniel Griswold, Don’t Blame Immigrants for Terrorism, 2001.Web. p.1

10 Ibid

11 Lee John, Terrorism and illegal immigration in the United States, 2013, web. P.1

12 Nwosu p,1

13 Ozeren Suleyman, Understanding Terrorism: Analysis of Sociological and Psychological Aspects, IOS Press, 2007, p.158

14 Nwosu p,1

15 Ibid

16 Franklin David, US relaxes strict rules on potential immigrants with limited terrorist link, The Guardian, 2014, p, 1

17 Altun Nurullah and Huseyin Cinoglu, Terrorism, International Migration and Border Control. European Scientific Journal July 2013 edition vol.9,No.20 , p. 103

18 Ibid

19 ibid

20 Franklin, p,1