Immigration and the War on Terror and the Illegal Drug Trade

Blog Category: Immigration

Written by: *Jesse Rhodeside

Throughout the history of the United States, periods of immigration have frequently corresponded with concerns over prospects for assimilating new groups of immigrants.  In each instance, however, the fears were found to be overstated and the group at issue would become part of the rich variety of cultures within our nation.  These concerns are present today in contemporary discussions on immigration and frame the belief that immigration is intertwined with the trade of illegal drugs and perhaps even terrorism.  As public discussions about immigration focuses on these issues, and legislators pass laws meant to address concerns related to the “War on Terror” or the “War on Drugs,” more pressing issues are ignored.  Given the interests involved and the contemporary attempts to direct political effort toward economic recovery, it suggests that attention by both the media and lawmakers is misplaced.

Much of the justification for taking a hard line against undocumented immigrants is the purported connection with the illegal drug trade.  Most immigrants are not involved in the illegal drug trade, and the crime rates in immigrant communities are comparable to non-immigrant communities.  Likewise, although the September 11 attacks demonstrated flaws in the defense mechanisms of the United States, the connection between acts of terror and the status of the border is tenuous.  The supposed connections with the drug trade and terror, however, has led to the effective criminalization of immigration law violations.  Given that these workers are afforded few legal protections as a result of their undocumented status, there is great potential for wage and working condition abuse.  Kevin Johnson suggests redirecting our public conversation towards the goals sought and to reduce the inflammatory tone of the conversation in order to achieve reform in this contentious area.

For additional information about unaddressed issues in the immigration policy debate, see Kevin Johnson, It’s the Economy, Stupid: The Hijacking of the Debate Over Immigration Reform by Monsters, Ghosts, and Goblins (or the War on Drugs, War on Terror, Narcoterrorists, Etc.), 13 Chap. L. Rev. 583 (2010).


*Jesse Rhodeside is currently the Senior Managing Editor on the Harrisburg Campus. To learn more about Jesse Rhodeside, click the link to view his page: Jesse Rhodeside


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