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After the 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States fundamentally reformed its immigration policy. The entry and stay of foreigners is tightly controlled and the number of expulsions has skyrocketed. In the name of national security, a strong policy of surveillance and control has been put in place – a policy which, for many, creates discrimination and reduces freedoms.
In the aftermath of September 11, the Bush administration launched a “war against terror” which led the United States to engage in two wars: one in Afghanistan, from October 2001, and the other in Iraq, from of March 2003.
On the home front, the Homeland Security Act was passed by an overwhelming majority in Congress in November 2002. With this Homeland Security Act, immigration to the United States became a security issue. The “bad” immigrants will now be hunted down and expelled.
With the help of this legislative arsenal, the government created a new agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which brought together several existing administrations and obtained extensive powers of territorial surveillance and arrests.
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The objective is of course to identify any potential terrorist threat. In fact, this reform allows the American police force to worry anyone, anywhere in the United States, especially at its borders.
To enter the United States, you now need either a visa or an entry authorization (ESTA, an electronic travel authorization system managed by DHS and compulsory since 2009). This measure applies to tourists as well as transit passengers.
The Homeland Security Act also targets the millions of undocumented immigrants who live and work in the United States. “With the creation of the DHS, the country’s security forces changed their size in order to increase their capacity to arrest and deport more and more people,” said Mizue Aizeki, deputy director of the NGO Immigrant Defense Project. Defense of Immigrants), a team of lawyers based in New York that defends the rights of foreigners facing deportation.
In 2003, the creation of an immigration “super” police called ICE (for “Immigration and Customs Enforcement”) brought the United States to a new dimension. The mission of the ICE is not to monitor the borders but to track down undocumented immigrants everywhere in the country. Between 2003 and 2013, the number of alien deportations doubled in the United States, from 211,000 to 432,000 deportations each year. Some 95% of these expulsions concern Latinos from Mexico and Central America (El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala …)
The overhaul of the American security apparatus in 2002 “was made possible by the shock caused by the attacks and made it possible to release exceptional funding to create the system we know today. all the police forces in the service of immigration control policy “, affirms the defender of foreigners.
When a local police officer notices a traffic violation or other minor misdemeanor, the offender can now be turned over to ICE if they have no papers and quickly find themselves caught in the “eviction pipeline.”
Since 2002, no US administration has questioned this system developed under the presidency of George W. Bush (2000-2008). Under the Obama era (2008-2016), a provision allowing fingerprints collected by police and in prisons to be transmitted to ICE resulted in the deportation of at least 500,000 foreigners.
Mizue Aizeki explains that the new immigration control policy uses counterterrorism techniques developed by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. It uses facial recognition techniques and the use of biometric data (fingerprints, iris scanning, DNA samples).
To flush out illegal aliens, the immigration services now use military equipment. In 2019, an ICE brigade intervened on a street in Queens, one of New York City’s five boroughs, with an armored vehicle. In 2020, an ICE policeman was filmed in the Bronx armed with an automatic rifle.
This happened this morning in Ridgewood. HSI, which is a part of ICE, was on Forest Ave between Summerfield St & Norman St. If you have any information, please let us know and NEVER open your door to ICE.https: //t.co/ekZqmNrvaD pic.twitter .com / MMRpE34N8O
Genia Blaser, lawyer for the NGO Immigrant Defense Project, reports cases of parents arrested by ICE after dropping their children off at school or on their way back from the laundromat. The immigration control agency is also known for its spectacular raids on the workplaces of people it arrests.
These practices gave birth in 2018 to “Abolish ICE” (“to remove the ICE”), a campaign supported by the American left and in particular by the New Yorker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Since the election of Joe Biden, the operations carried out by the ICE have been reduced. “We find that these practices which often lead to the separation of families still take place. But they are more discreet whereas under the presidency of Donald Trump, they were much more visible.”
This policy of strict, methodical and sometimes brutal immigration control has created situations that many consider inhuman. Twenty years after the attacks of September 11, it also engenders discriminatory practices vis-à-vis American citizens of Arab origin or of Muslim faith. Faced with an all-powerful police force and opaque methods, some now feel assimilated to strangers.
Ali is 35 years old. Born in the United States to Lebanese parents, this computer engineer sometimes wonders if he really is an American like any other. Every time he takes a plane, his distinctly Arabic-sounding first and last name plays tricks on him. “Since I was 18, every time I have to go through a security check, I have been systematically searched and questioned. Random checks always fall on me.”
A few years ago, Ali traveled to South Carolina as part of his professional activities. When boarding the plane back to California, where he resides, he is unable to complete his check-in at an automatic kiosk.
He then goes to the counter of the airline. The employee asks her for ID to check in and says, “It’s strange, you are on a watch list.” Without being able to tell him the reason.
For Ali, it’s a shock. Born in the United States, the young engineer does not understand why his name is on a special list and takes steps with DHS. For months now, he had been surprised that he had not been able to check in online.
After months of insistence, he gets no formal response, but finds he can check in again without having to report to an airline agent. However, “at airports, random checks always, always, always on me!”, He assures us.
Naheed Samadi Bahram was born in Afghanistan. Director of a New York organization supporting Afghan women, she describes similar experiences. A resident since 2006, recently naturalized, she says that every time she returns to the United States after a stay abroad, she is systematically questioned in an office and treated differently from other passengers.
“I am a Muslim and I do not cover my hair. I have been living in the United States for 15 years and have always had the same address, I have always had a job, I have never hidden anything from the authorities. And I have never hidden anything from the authorities. yet, because I am Afghan and I was a refugee in Pakistan, I am entitled to different treatment from other American citizens. “
In the United States, many denounce a phenomenon of “criminalization” of immigration and Mizue Aizeki, deputy director of the NGO Immigrant Defense Project, believes that “it is possible to return to a world where the ICE and the Internal security law would not exist. Twenty years ago, no one could have imagined that immigration officers would come to arrest people coming out of a laundromat, gun in hand. “
His organization advocates that the fight against terrorism, the “war on terror” initiated by George W. Bush, cease being used to give unlimited powers to the police force. “By making national security and the fight against terrorism the priority of all policies, the government has restricted our individual freedoms.”
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