National Security Impact of Immigration Policy Essay

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Immigration Policies as a Tool for National Security

Of late, societal apprehension towards immigrants, criminal behavior, and terrorism have intensified, giving rise to concerns regarding the American migrant system’s efficacy in maintaining the safety of the nation’s people. Recent events revolving around crimes, weaponry crossing national boundaries and foreign- born people has triggered a series of reactions with the most intense ones demanding a sealing of borders, barring migration for individuals hailing from high- risk foreign territories, and putting a stop to refugee resettlement.

Theory of Migration

Migration represents mankind’s story from the outset to the current age. It has its roots in mankind’s adventure- seeking spirit and quest to follow one’s dreams. The growth in individuals undertaking perilous, cross- border journeys across the globe dates back to the world’s Stone Age. Statistical figures reveal several millions continually moving from their motherland in search of more superior living conditions and opportunities at performing services. Other reasons for migration include societal divide, fear of hunger, excess violence, war, joblessness, instability, or an attempt to avoid environmental, political, or economic crises. 

According to researchers, immigration is a societal phenomenon on account of the associated challenges impacting the places of origin and the destination. Though it impacts all nations worldwide, its increased significance within the European Union is owing to the region being among the world’s most developed ones. Global immigration may be segregated into the following 3 key periods: 1) pre-1945, a period that witnessed a never- before- seen scope and scale of the phenomenon; 2) 1945 - early 1970, comprising of labor immigration to the Western European region, colonial worker immigration, and permanent shifts to Australia, the US and Canada; and 3) The millennium 2000, whose migratory trends spurred immense global change. Europe’s political agenda ardently debates the matter of illegal immigration, which may be defined as a cross- border shift of individuals in violation of the destination’s migration regulation. Between the sixties and mid- seventies, illegal immigration positively influenced destination nations. However, in the two decades that followed, it began to be viewed as an unwelcome phenomenon having negative effects. After the terror attacks of 9/11, negative attitudes towards migration skyrocketed and currently, it is considered a grave security risk. Europe’s enlargement has caused its boundaries to expand farther and EU has started regarding migration as a threat to national and regional security owing to the multiple adverse effects on destination nations in several areas including political, social, cultural, economic, and security domains. Further, it remains a European Union policy agenda priority on account of related national security concerns, national identity threat, and economic issues. 

Currently, America may be considered the top immigration destination across the globe with its lengthy history of taking in waves of migrants, periodically. The nation’s population constitutes five percent of the current global population, but roughly one in five global immigrants (total figure estimated at 214 million) make their home in America.  Migrants and immigration enjoy an unquestionable place in the American national mythology pantheon. Nevertheless, there are some modern American political problems that prove to be equally politically explosive or controversial.

Balancing Priorities: Immigration, National Security, and Public Safety

Migration contributes greatly to supporting the nation’s security priorities, with the extant systems screening several million tourists, refugees and migrants for ensuring the nation is free of threats. These measures include narcotics prohibition, preventing terrorists and felons from entering, and detaining illegal immigrants. American immigration organizations engage in intelligence sharing, collaborate with several security organizations and law enforcers on the local, national, and international levels, and undertake real- time analyses of countless details on travelers, vessels, and cargo. 

The nation requires reasonable workable immigration strategies for improving national security and simultaneously balancing its contribution to other major national interests. Migration systems and policies greatly impact promotion of a more comprehensive US security agenda; reforms in the future aimed at securing national boundaries and promoting safety ought to understand this balance.

Immigration and Societal Security

Social security revolves around societal capacity to carry on in its basic character even in the face of evolution or real or potential risks.

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In the context of international migration, one may define social security as perceptions of a particular nation’s people on threats posed by migrants to their national, religious, cultural, or linguistic identities. This standpoint regards the destination’s national values as the referent entity facing threat. 5 On the whole, migration, both legal and illegal, forced and voluntary, makes up the above threat, so long as migrants give rise to identity challenges within the destination nation on account of their different religion, language, or culture.

Migration’s perceived threat to a society’s security is subjective, and not objective or ubiquitous, in nature; it is contingent on how destination countries define themselves.5 A few nations, for example, do not welcome the idea of multiculturalism whereas others might consider cultural diversity a great asset for the nation. Layton-Henry and Heisler (1993) explain that post- WWII, a majority of European countries underwent shifts from their original, relatively homogeneous nature (when the population was largely united under a collective national and cultural identity) to a more heterogeneous nature (constituting numerous national groups) (158). Here, migration might be perceived in a negative light owing to its challenging of nations’ traditional core values and identity. Additionally, migrant failure to adapt or blend in, arguably, adversely impacts governmental and societal stability.

Immigration and Economic Security

The second factor threatened by migration is national economy. Migration has, in the past, and continues, in the present day, to significantly affect the economies of the origin as well as destination nations. Displaying economic pros as well as cons, the extended definition of the term ‘security’ to incorporate economics has garnered more focus on migration’s economic challenges; consequently, the phenomenon is being deemed to be a security challenge. Economic migrants and asylum seekers/ refugees both potentially jeopardize a nation’s economic security.

Immigration of workers is believed to jeopardize origin as well as destination nations’ economic security. This claim supports the idea that emigration of well- educated, qualified and skilled individuals from the Southern unindustrialized nations to the Northern industrialized ones leads to “brain drain” within the former and unwelcome economic effects within the latter. Economic and social security are two directly interrelated aspects since perceptions of migrants as economic burdens to the destination country are typically the outcome of their being perceived as “others” on account of evident, outward differences.

Immigration and Internal Security

Besides economic and social security, of late, internal security is also recognized as one security faced potentially jeopardized by the phenomenon of migration. After the 9/11 attacks, migration assumed a prominent position on the country’s counter- terrorism plan, with governments adopting more stringent migration policies and associating migration with terror activities. 

America instantly began perceiving migration to be a national security issue. The then- President George Bush was quick to propose a plan for battling terrorism via the nation’s migration policy, and the freshly instituted homeland security department incorporated an Immigration and Naturalization Service, thereby institutionalizing migration as an internal security threat. Numerous experts advocate for restrictions in migration policy for defending internal security within the destination country. Therefore, the ideal means to shut out undesirable persons from other countries would be: decreasing the nation’s yearly migrant intake.

Immigration and Public Security

Akin to migration’s link to terrorism,….....

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Brown, Theresa Cardinal Brown, Lazaro Zamora , Juliana Kerr, Sara McElmuryr. Balancing Priorities: Immigration, National Security, and Public Safety. 2016.

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Heisler Martin, Zig Layton-Henry. Migration and the Links Between Social and Societal Security. In: Waever, O., Buzan, B., Kelstrup M., Lemaitre, P. eds. Identity, Migration and the New Security Agenda in Europe. London: Pinter Publishers, pp.148-166, 1993.

Huysmans, Jef. Migrants as a Security Problem: Dangers of ‘Securitizing’ Societal Issues.” In: Miles, R., Thranhardt, D. eds. Migration and European Integration: The Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion. London: Pinter Publishers, pp. 53-72, 1995.

Lacey Marc and Ginger Thompson. The New York Times Upfront | The News Magazine for High School. Teaching Resources, Children’s Book Recommendations, and Student Activities | The New York Times, 2010.>. 

Taylor, Jameson. Illegal Immigration: Drugs, Gangs and Crime. John W. Pope Civitas Institute. 2010. archive/perspective/illegal-immigration-drugs-gangs-and-crime>.

Spencer Alexander. “Linking Immigrants and Terrorists: The Use of Immigration as an Anti-Terror Policy”. The Online Journal of Peace and Conflict Resolution. 8 (1), 1-24, 2008.

Stoffman, D. Truths and Myths About Immigration. In: Moens, A., Collacott, M. eds. Immigration Policy and the Terrorist Threat in Canada and the United States. Vancouver: Fraser Institute, pp.3-20, 2008.

Timmerman, Kenneth . FrontPage Magazine – Broken. 2006.>.

Zolberg Aristide. A Nation by Design: Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America, 2006, Harvard University.

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