Migration: A Threat to National Security?
Migration, or the movement of people from one place to another, has long been accepted in the United States and other countries as just a way of life. However, events such as 9/11 brought home the fact that not all of the people who are moving into the country (and even moving out of it or through it) are doing so with good intentions of simply making a better and happier life for themselves somewhere else. While many people move each year simply because they want to, there are others who move because they need to get into position for something else. They may be working alone, or they may have the backing of a terrorist organization or some other type of crime syndicate. Either way, they can be highly dangerous to the American people and very destructive to both life and property. Even closing the borders would not stop all of this migration, because many illegal immigrants are still getting into the country each and every day.
The border states like New Mexico and Arizona are most at risk, but individuals from countries other than Mexico also find ways to come to this country illegally - and many people who are here legally are just as dangerous. Despite the growing concerns over migration and immigration, however, there are many people who still do not understand the dangers surrounding the issue and how much of a threat to national security migration can actually be, in some instances. The people who do understand are taking precautions to mitigate risk and reduce the chances of people coming into the United States to do harm. However, that means fewer freedoms and more complexity of services for the American people, which are things the majority of Americans would like to avoid.
Migration from Overseas
Much of the migration that takes place comes from people overseas (Balin, 2008; Karakayali, 2005). These people live in countries where they struggle to make a living, and sometimes where they struggle to survive. Because they have that kind of life experience, it is understandable that they want to relocate to a country where they will be treated better and where they can have a higher quality of life. They assume (sometimes incorrectly) that America is the place where they can have that kind of experience. Most of these people come to the country legally. They apply for passports, visas, or green cards - whatever they need in order to live in America, be able to get a job, and not fear being sent right back to the country from whence they came. These migratory individuals could still be returned to their home country, but they will be allowed to stay in America provided they meet specific requirements. If they understand these requirements and follow them, they should have no trouble from a legal standpoint. As can be seen in the following graph, many countries experience migration each year.
Source: Wikimedia Commons Image. Blue is positive migration, orange is negative, green is stable, and grey is no data.
That migration does not mean, however, that people who come to the United States will not be treated differently from those who already live there. Immigrants - depending on their country of origin - are somewhat suspect in the United States anymore, largely because of the problems that a very small number of them have caused by being involved with terror cells (De La Torre, 2009). Unfortunately, that is not limited to people who have migrated to the United States, because there are also "home grown" terrorists who have been born and raised on American soil and who still decide that they want to kill Americans - often in the name of religion, but sometimes for other reasons. Still, the majority of people who have caused serious problems for the American people as a whole have come from other places, most notably the Middle East. With that in mind, migration of these people from their country to the United States has affected national security and has threatened the safety of the American people and the American dream.
The United States is truly a land of immigrants. Unless a person is full-blooded American Indian, he or she is an immigrant, in a sense. However, many people who live in America today come from families who have lived in the United States for generations, so there is no real sense of being an immigrant or of migrating from one place to another (Ewing, 2006; Immigration, 2005). Moving inside the country, from one city or state to another one, is much more common than moving into or out of the country. The recent immigrants are the people with which the United States government is concerned, because it has only been recently (within the last 10-15 years) that there have been problems arising from people who have migrated to the United States from another country. These problems have led to enhanced and heightened security measures throughout the country. Traveling by airplane is the most obvious way to see these security measures in action, but there are other enhancements to security that are not as obvious but that are still essential to the security of the nation (Ewing, 2006).
People coming to the United States from specific countries have a much more difficult time getting a visa than they would have in the past, and the number of people who are allowed into the country is not as high as it used to be. There are many Americans who have also moved overseas, because they no longer feel safe in their country and do not like the direction in which it has moved. While that is unfortunate, it is a product of the times and the difficulties faced by such a changing and global society. Globalization and the Internet made just about everyone connected to one another, which was valuable (Balin, 2008). Additionally, it also made it easier for people to find information that could be used to harm others. It is that aspect of the Internet that is unfortunate, and with which people have a hard time dealing. The Internet did not cause the problems with security, but it did make them more prominent.
September 11th - What was Learned
Naturally, the most significant issue when it comes to migration and national security is the threat of terrorist activities and other harm coming to the American people (Immigration, 2005). If one moves to Florida, for example, it is much more difficult to get a driver's license than it was before 9/11. The reason behind that change is due to the fact that the people who caused so much death and destruction on that day got their licenses in the State of Florida. Once they had proper ID, they had no problem getting onto planes that were ultimately used to kill thousands of people. Today, a person moving to Florida must prove his or her identity all the way back to a birth certificate, no matter the age of that person. if, for example, a married woman in her 70s moves to Florida and requests a driver's license, she will have to show her current license from another state, her proof of residence in Florida (utility bill, rental agreement, etc.), her original birth certificate or a certified copy, and her marriage license, even if she married 50 or more years ago. Without proof of who is she going back to birth, and documentation of any changes (like marriage or divorce) she will not be able to obtain a license.
Contrast that with places like Arizona or Washington State, where an out-of-state driver's license and a request to switch to that state's license is nearly all that is required. This difference shows two things: that Florida is taking national security to the extreme, and that other states may not be going far enough. There are no national guidelines for driver's licenses, and there are no national ID cards, so each state has discretion over what documentation is required in order to be successfully licensed by that state. That can make it easy for someone who has come from another country and does not have good intentions to get a driver's license. With that "proper identification," that person can easily get a plane ticket, train ticket, or anything else that could be used in the same way as the 9/11 attacks.
What was learned from 9/11 becomes questionable at that point, from the standpoint of national security (Esbenshade, 2007; Ewing, 2006). Some states appear to have more security than others, and that would slow immigrants from coming into those states and establishing residency, or being able to "put down roots" there in the form of getting documentation that makes them appear at first glance to be citizens. Beyond that, though, and on a national level, not much has changed. The Department of Homeland Security was established, and for some time after 9/11 it…