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Migration: a Threat to National Security

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Migration is an ancient phenomenon. Although the issue has dominated societies, it continues to contribute towards instability across regions. Put frankly, the movement of people into and out of countries presents a major challenge to any State. To begin with, it affects the country’s economic conditions. It also allows the entry of new elements into a country. Thirdly, it allows for an outward movement of individuals, an aspect that might lead to national destabilization due to brain drain. In a nutshell, the positives and the negatives of the migration aspect are far-reaching.

Based on this establishment, migration is an intriguing topic since on the one side, it has positive influence while on the other hand it has negative outcomes. Hence, the primary question that this research paper explores is – does immigration undermine national security. It is important to point out from the beginning that national security is viewed as a variant of several aspects. The aspects considered in the paper include: political, military, social and economic security. In regards to political security, the primary concern is how migration affects the politics of a country. In reference to the military aspect, the focus is on how immigration influences the issue of policing borders or taking measures to nullify security threats. On the economic front, the main idea rests on the perception that economies are affected by immigration. The value of focusing on economic security of nations is significant since the state of an economy has a relationship with its state of security. Poor countries have been found to be more prone to higher levels of insecurity. The social aspect is also significant since, migration affects the composition of States. With migration, the culture or social fabric of a society is interfered with. Hence, migration could pose a danger to social security. However, this paper focuses on how the United States has viewed migration as a source of national insecurity. However, the paper also considers arguments, which claim that migration is beneficial to poor States since it paves way for the reception of remittances. It is however concluded that nowadays, countries view migration as a source of national insecurity.

Literature Review

Salehyan and Glediitsch (2006) argued that migration is critical in the spread of conflicts across societies. Certain regions of the world encounter more conflicts than others do. For instance, Africa and Asia are more prone to conflict than is Europe or North America. Salehyan and Glediitsch (2006) also argued that population movement is a crucial mechanism that aids in the spread of conflict. Thus, the stringent measures that countries such as the United States adopt against immigration might be understood. Howard (2010) also asserted that international movement contributes towards polarizing borders. Such aspects leave States vulnerable to attacks by criminals or terrorists. It is clear that no State wants conflict to spread to its borders. Consequently, stable countries refuse to allow immigrants into their countries because such movements contribute towards increasing national insecurity.

Adamson (2006) conceded that international migration has dominated the security agenda of several States. For instance, Europe and the United States have focused on developing policies to reduce the dangers posed by international migration especially terrorism. The attacks on the United States in September 11 were a major turning point on the policy on international migration.

The United States case of undocumented youths is used to highlight how migration contributes to insecurity. By 2008, roughly six hundred and twelve thousand undocumented youth received GEDs or diplomas from American high schools. Despite having made it through the high school system, their legal status in the country remained unresolved. The law however bars a fraction of such youths from proceeding to colleges. Thus, the law stifles the chances of pursuing careers that could enable some of the youth to chart successful careers paths. The issue of illegal migrants has no wonder, attracted much public attention. The question whether the underage illegal migrants should receive punishment such as deportation or be accepted into the American country as citizens remains controversial.

In a bid to  address the problem, senators Orin Hatch from Utah and Dick Durbin  of Illinois brought the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act with a view to allowing such immigrants an opportunity to pursue their education, as well as legal residency in the United States (Batalova & McHugh, 2010). The Act has come to be famously known as the Dream Act. The Act would change the landscape of the US in terms of the lives of the cases of the undocumented youth in the country. The youth would gain legal status in the US by participating in the military or the education system of the country. The Act also extends an opportunity to apply for permanent residency to such youths.

Despite the obvious gains such an Act would herald in the United States, some politicians remain unsupportive of the impending legislation. This is clear because the initiative failed to go through both the House and the Senate. Persistent efforts to bring back the bill for further deliberations have been hampered by dissenting voices. The fact that the Dream Act has failed the popularity test five times at the Congress signifies the nature and level of opposition that the bill has encountered. December 2010 was another time when the bill was brought to the Senate and subjected to a vote. Surprising, Sen. Hatch publicly indicated that he was going to vote against the bill. The fact that the senator was a co-sponsor of the bill left much for debate.

Despite the resounding defeats of the bill, Senators Harry Reid and Durbin reintroduced the Dream Act in May 2011 to the Congress. However, the number of the opponents of the bill has not reduced. Based on the views of the opponents of the bill, the security of the US would be threatened severely were it to go through.

The bill sets some conditions that aspirants for residency must fulfill. Such requirements such as having a good moral character imply that people of questionable character have no chance of getting the benefits due to the potential Act. The Act also demanded that those seeking the legal status ought to have lived in the US for a period of five or more years after the passing of the legislation.

Allowing the undocumented youths to register would pave the way for great economic gains. This view is held since the youth would contribute by paying taxes, an act that enhances the tax revenues of the country. However, an influx of people seeking the legal status would annul such gains by becoming eligible for government subsidies in education. Thus, the subsidies extended to the youths would minimize the effect of the taxes that they pay.

Apart from economic matters, the most critical issue that opponents of the Act cite is security. By opening its doors to undocumented youth, the American Dream Act acts like a form of blanket amnesty to illegal immigrants to the country. Senator Orin Hatch cited this as the primary reason for his withdrawal of support for the bill. Although differences persist, some States, such as New York, California and Maryland have introduced their forms of the Dream Act.

Sageman (2004) also found that migration from one country to another might present challenges to the recipient country. For instance, the United States of America has often claimed that migration is a danger to its national security. Thus, it has used such allegations to devise mechanisms of tackling illegal migration into the country. The temporary protection status (TPS) is a status given to temporary immigrants to the US and must be nationals from the eligible countries. This was put to being in 1990 under the Immigration Act of 1990 (IMMACT). This allows the Attorney General to provide TPS to eligible immigrants who could not be able to go back to their homes safely due to conflicts, environmental disaster or any other temporary disastrous conditions.

A person granted a TPS can be able to work in the US without any restriction and if the TPS period is extended, the work permit can also be extended for the same period as the TPS. Once the TPS is terminated, which in most cases takes a maximum period of 18 months, the person gets the same immigration status as before (Federation for American Immigration Reforms, 2000).

In 2003 March, under the homeland Security Act of 2002, the powers and designation of the TPS were transferred to from the Attorney General to the office of Secretary of Homeland security. The responsibilities of the administration of the TPS programs were also transferred from the office of Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) which is a component of Department of Homeland Security (DHS). On the other hand, the TPS does not mean that anyone has acquired a permanent residence in the US.  Residents of the country that has been granted the TPS should register when the TPS is granted because those who register after the period are ineligible to the grant of TPS (Marc, 14).

Eligibility of TPS is determined by the US government and is given to immigrants whose countries are considered eligible for the TPS grants. Those who are eligible benefits for the TPS benefits if they:

  • Establishes a continuous residence as well as their physical presence as stated by the designation
  • They have no any criminal record or they have been barred by the TPS before
  • Register within the given time or incase of extension, register before the time given erupts to maintain the benefits given by the TPS programs

On the other hand, an immigrant can be termed as ineligible for the TPS benefits if;

  • They have ever committed any crime or any kind of misdemeanors in the US
  • If the immigrant has been bared to any kind of asylum
  • If he has ever committed any crime and waiver is not available

Issues of terrorism, which are a big threat to national security, have also been associated with international migration. Counterterrorism is a tactic or a technique that is used by the government through the police department, military or other intelligent services to prevent or respond to the terrorist attacks or threats. This is done through the government trying to reduce and act against insurgency.

In an issue of growing threat of terrorism, most countries have introduced legislation to counter terrorism. In the United States, the following have been put in place to counter terrorism.

  • In the use, the government have emphasized on the employment of deadly forces that would be backed by the law enforcement bodies
  • The forth Amendments of the US constitutions governs the search and seizures.
  • After the 9/11 act, a US PATRIOT Act was passed accompanied by other executive order
  • The US government established a Department of Homeland Security in order to consolidate all agencies in the country that are responsible in counter terrorism as well as responding to other natural disasters that could hit the country.

Effects of TPS on counterterrorism

Since most of the people that have entered in the US are either illegal or legal non-immigrants, this would not put the TPS applicants on the safe side. Those who get into the US illegally, and may wish to acquire a TPS, would be hard for them to process the status. It is hard for the US immigration officer to have a clear background of the applicant or immigrant to the US because it is held by the government of the respective country. In most cases, some immigrants might be in the US and pretend to be innocent while planning to commit their crimes (Marc, 18).

TPS status was designed to help citizens of failed countries and ease the governments from over-load through by giving those people an opportunity to work and live in the US legally for a given period. Since after expiration of the specified duration of the TPS, not many people volunteer to get back to their country and in turn, it forces the US government to deport them. This raises an alarm to some governments and groups terming this as a discrimination to the members or citizens, which in turn calls for revenge (Federation for American Immigration Reforms, 2000).

TPS has another effect to counterterrorism in the US through granting the members of the terrorist groups an entry to the US and allowing them to have the TPS benefits. This is done through legally offering nonimmigrant visas to this people especially those with anonymous history. With improvement and advancement of technology, it has made the nonimmigrant send information and money to their counterparts back at home making it easy for the research on how to attack the US and in funding their projects.

Granting Temporary Protection Status to some people needs a great screening in order to have a better understanding of the person’s intentions and make a follow up of what they are doing in order to determine those who could probably be engaging in illegal transfer of information. This can also be done through monitoring what they do or the messages they are sharing with their families or other people outside the US. Though this is not easy, it would be one of the most appropriate way of determine criminals and avoiding terrorist attacks.

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