Immigration Reform, National Security After September 11, and the Future of North American Integration

43 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2007

See all articles by Kevin R. Johnson

Kevin R. Johnson

University of California, Davis - School of Law

Bernard Trujillo

Valparaiso University Law School


This article is part of a symposium on national security to be published in volume 91 of the Minnesota Law Review.

This article critically examines how national security concerns have come to dominate - inappropriately in our view - the much-needed debate over comprehensive immigration reform. This article specifically contends that the security concerns that animated the conduct of the U.S. government after the horrible events of September 11, 2001, later distorted the debate over reform of the immigration laws. When it comes to immigration reform, the myopic fixation with security and the so-called "war on terror," has made it next to impossible for law- and policy-makers to see the forest through the trees. This is most unfortunate because meaningful reform of the U.S. immigration laws is long overdue.

Part I of this article analyzes the U.S. government's scatter-shot attempts in the years since September 11th at improving national security by tightening the immigration laws and increasing border enforcement. Besides being overbroad, under-inclusive, and, in many instances, grossly unfair, the measures appear to have done little to truly improve the security of the United States but have done much to alienate the very communities whose help is desperately needed to effectively protect national security in modern times. Part I further discusses how both Canada and Mexico responded individually to September 11th and worked with the United States on various anti-terrorism measures. Although a certain amount of regional cooperation followed the tragic events of September 11th, not nearly enough was done to truly improve the overall security of North America as a region. A safer North America will require future cooperation between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Part II of the article demonstrates how the "war on terrorism" has distorted the recent national debate over immigration reform. Security concerns have made it nearly impossible to have a rational discussion of changes to immigration law and policy necessary to fulfill important economic, political, and social goals of the United States. In no small part due to the "close the borders" mentality fostered by September 11th, border enforcement has increasingly been the only item of consensus in Congress when it comes to immigration reform. However, a focus on border enforcement, to the exclusion of other important policy goals, is short sighted. The United States requires more realistic laws that better comport with the economic, political and social realities of modern immigration. A truly multifaceted and comprehensive approach to immigration reform, more far-reaching than any contemplated by the U.S. Congress in recent memory, is needed to bring the nation's immigration laws in line with its various needs in the twenty-first century.

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Kevin R. and Trujillo, Bernard, Immigration Reform, National Security After September 11, and the Future of North American Integration. Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 91, 2007, UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 101, Available at SSRN:

Kevin R. Johnson (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )

Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall
400 Mrak Hall Drive
Davis, CA 95616-5201
United States
530 752 0243 (Phone)
530 752 7279 (Fax)

Bernard Trujillo

Valparaiso University Law School ( email )

656 S. Greenwich St.
Valparaiso, IN 46383-6493
United States

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