Counterterrorism is a practice that is very necessary in order to continue the American way of life. When we think about Counterterrorism, what comes to mind is preventative measures against terrorist attacks from countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq or simply the Middle East. After 9/11, we became suspicious of people who did not look American. This is a very difficult characteristic to ask for because America is made up of many types of people. Americans do not have an “American Look”. In my paper, I hope to delve into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) focusing on the United States Citizens Immigrations Services (USCIS).Both agencies work in deterring Terrorism in our country. By exploring the roles these agencies play in securing our borders, we will have a better understanding of what also needs to be done to maintain that security.
In order to understand how to protect our country we must first become familiar with the agencies. Crank and Gregor (2005) explain how Homeland security has come to the limelight post 9/11. Our country’s security was not something that normal individuals pondered. It took a tragic event to force us to look at security issues our country faces.Crank and Gregor (2005) give us background on Homeland Security by explaining that Tom Ridge was the first director who was an attorney and served twice as governor of Pennsylvania. He was also a close friend of President Bush. It was apparent that our government was in need of an agency to specifically assist the needs of protecting the United States.
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The Department of Homeland Security was created from the Office of Homeland Security in 2003. It is also charged with counterterrorism. DHS includes law enforcement agencies, such as the Secret Service, the Border Patrol, the new Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Customs Service and other agencies. It has its own military force, the U. S. Coast Guard, and the Coast Guard has limited law enforcement power. DHS is responsible for port security and transportation systems. (White, Jonathan R. , (2008) This agency is separate from the Department of Defense but is made up of many retired military personnel who have the military experience but whose sole job is the protection of our country.
White adds that there has been much confusion about making the separation between what agencies provided what services.The goal that all agencies have is the same: to protect the United States of America from all threats, foreign and domestic. After 9/11, one agency that received much attention was the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS). Today, this agency is called United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They serve within the umbrella of Homeland Security. The terrorists that boarded on 9/11 were foreigners who had entered the country then committed the most atrocious crime our country had ever suffered. This information attracted the attention of how we admit foreign-born individuals into our country.
There are several questions that we should explore:
- How should we control the immigration issue?
- Should the government deny individuals from certain countries entry to the United States?
- If the U. S tightens immigration standards, can terrorist attacks be stopped?
Immigration has always been present in America. When Christopher Columbus first set foot in American, unknowingly, he was already an immigrant. The United States has been built by people who have left their country in fear of persecution for practicing their religion, lack of opportunities to support their families, freedom, and those who were brought to this country against their will and sold. The typical model that we have to identify Americans is that we have none. We come from many different ethnicities, religions and cultures. After 9/11, immigration became a topic that became hot again. There are individuals that believe that if we can modify our view on immigration we can prevent future assaults on our country.
Although immigration was not the root cause of 9/11, and reforming immigration policy may not prevent future 9/11’s, some improvements in immigration policy may indeed increase our ability to thwart terrorist efforts and such changes should be carefully evaluated. Kritz Mary (2002) I fully agree with this article. Until 9/11 happened, we heard much talk of how we need to strengthen immigration and not allow any more people into the U. S. These attacks rattled the country but also made our government more suspicious of everyone on the outside. The most common issue that was raised regarding immigration was the influx of Mexicans crossing the border and taking jobs away from hard-working Americans. To help resolve this issue, our government has designed a program that will allow these individuals to come to the U. S. to work within a time frame and then return back to their country of origin. U. S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) uses scanning equipment to collect biometric identifiers such as fingerprints, in an inkless process, along with a digital photograph of the visitor. This screening is now being used by USCIS since March 2004 in order to verify that every individual who passes through American borders is legal. This is how the program works: First, the person requesting the VISA must give biographic and biometric information and then verify the port of entry.
Once cleared members will be issued VISA. Now when the individual travels to the U. S. the Boarder patrol agent will collect travel documents, passports and/or visa. The visa is swiped thru machine to verified by State Department's database.Once information is on the screen the officer will ask visitor to place index finger on scanner and then takes picture of visitor. This is to verify that the person is the same person who was issued a visa.
I feel every American should be in this database, which will make it easier to create a national identification card. The job of the State Department has also become very difficult. They are the only agency that can authorize visas to enter our country. They have the job of questioning individuals of why they need or want to enter this country.USCIS steps in when a foreigner is seeking a specific status within the United States. Being stationed overseas before provides me opportunity to see how the process works. Many of our American service members marry foreign nationals and we must make sure that they are aware of the procedure they must follow to have their spouses accompany them to the United States.
This is a lengthy process but being in the military has its advantages. Procedure times are reduced for military personnel specially those stationed overseas.
USA PATRIOT (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism)
The event of 9/11 caused the American government to also look into how many liberties we are given within our own country. National Liberties were re-evaluated and some were thought to be too generous for our own good. In a survey asking whether the U. S. should restrict civil liberties.
Moore, 2002 information collected provides us with insight as to what Americans think. Thirty-eight point six percent of General Americans believe that wiretapping is acceptable while 46. % of Muslim Americans believe it is acceptable. Thirty point seven percent of General Americans believe searches without warrants are acceptable while 32. 4% of Muslim Americans agree. Nineteen point two percent of General Americans believe Internment camps are acceptable while 21. 4% of Muslim Americans agree it is acceptable.
Fifteen point eight percent of General Americans believe Indefinite Detention without hearing are acceptable while 13. 7% of Muslims agree. Forty-five point one percent of General Americans believe that Ethnic profiling is acceptable while 52. 4% of Muslim Americans agree. These numbers were surprising because the news wires always seem to report that Muslim Americans are very uncooperative and feel that they are being scrutinized. This survey shed light on attitudes that not only are shared by General Americans but also Muslim Americans who are being focused on by the media. (Moore, 2002) Tumlin (2004) states that civil liberties will affect civil rights and make an impact on how our country treats immigration.
In her comments, she makes us aware that the constitution does not merely protect American “citizens” but all “persons” no matter what their status in the United States. She states: Yet not all immigrants are considered equally suspect. Immigrants from nations with purported ties to al Qaeda receive increased attention through a form or profiling based on a combination of immigration status and nationality. I call this new form “immigration-plus” profiling. Immigration-plus profiling conflates nationality with religion and targets immigrants from nations with sizable Muslim populations for selective enforcement of immigrant laws. Tumlin (2004) explanation concurs with the thoughts of many Americans. This is what is broadcasted in televisions across the country.
We seem to have learned to be distrustful of Muslims. It seems that our law enforcers have also learned that attitude and our immigration procedures seem to reflect dislike for individuals from those countries. Our country can in fact deny entry if you come from a country in the Middle East. This is not blatantly outright, but subtle enough to maintain it is not “illegal”. Some individuals are requested to register even though they already live in the United States. Merely changing one thing cannot stop terrorism. By having agencies work collectively, they can share information and determine what solution works best for specific situations.
Shutting down our borders is not the way to deter terrorism. Despite the existence of such a long list of antiterrorist conventions and legal provisions, the colossal terrorist attacks on September 11 could not be predicted or prevented. Haque (2005) I believe that there is some truth to this statement. While there is no way to know with certainty that this could have been prevented, we must take a look at what aided in failing to detect that something could have occurred. Our government monitors the transfer of so much information, we must reevaluate how we process the information and who analyzes it. Publicized information from the government shows nothing out of the ordinary when the terrorist boarded the plane. It appears that the only thing that could have prevented this occurrence is if the airline attendants had the capacity to read minds. Since they do not, we will have to rely on intelligence gathered by agencies regarding people who might be under suspicion.
In conclusion, While we might be fearful of the tragedies our country has suffered, we must continue to keep in mind that we are what other countries look up to. We are and should continue being the country of immigrants and opportunity. Upon my research, I found that many articles brought up the issue of civil liberties. How much freedom should we allow foreigners in our country? That is an issue that will require much more thought and research. Terrorism is very present in our times but with the development of Homeland Security and USCIS, we will be able to better track individuals that enter our country and for what reasons. Our borders continue to need work because it is nearly impossible to make sure no person enters the country illegally.
Some individual’s determination to be in the U.S. is to work for income; others come for reasons of hate. The bottom line is as Americans we all have the responsibility to support our government and its laws. We must continue as individuals to be vigilant and protect the citizens that are in our country now. As others threaten our country, we must all unite and show the world that we intend to keep our way of life. Earlier I stated that Americans do not have an “American Look”.
I think that we may indeed have one. We have a look in our eyes that says, “We are American”. It is a feeling of pride and joy. To say “I am an American” is a privilege. It is not an ethnocentric attitude, but simply a reality in our world. Despite the hatred displayed to us by terrorists, we continue to stand tall and know that what we stand for is right.
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