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Los Angeles Valley College

Political Science 001 - American Government

Spring 2007 - Revised May 2007

Issue Brief # 3

Illegal Immigration as a Security Issue

The purpose: To provide you with pertinent information on the security aspects of illegal immigration. Knowledge of the subject on your part will better inform our classroom discussion and give you a preview of possible questions on the exam.


Introduction: For the 15 years prior to the terrorist attacks of 09/11/01 the United States Government quietly ignored the issue of our highly porous land borders. The economic benefits of cheap labor and humanitarian concern for the plight of our neighbors to the south overrode security concerns. There was no concerted public pressure to improve border security and politicians on both sides of the aisle did not want to risk alienating a growing segment of our population. The enormity and complexity of how to improve border security also presented major difficulties in coming up with a realistic plan.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 shocked us, at least temporarily, out of our complacency. We were angry and surprised at how easily our enemies took advantage of the openness of our society. After some months of near national hysteria, we, the media and our elected officials consistently began to downplay the threat of future 9/11s. However, since mid 2005 a series of events, disturbing disclosures and renewed threats have reminded us again that we are still under threat and remain   highly vulnerable.

Reports on our lack of readiness in September 2001 remind us that those who attacked us were not-native to this country, came here under false pretenses and had little difficulty blending into our society. The terrorists’ ability to ‘hide in plain sight’ gave them the opportunity and capability to plan, coordinate and carryout their deadly attacks.

Since 9/11/’01 we have taken a number of measures designed to detect, identify and keep track of those who arrive on our shores with legal documents. Significant improvement has been made in keeping track of legally documented tourists, students and businessmen. While the new systems in place are far from foolproof they have made detection of visa ‘over-stayers’ and the management of security at our main legal points of entry a bit easier and more reliable. The government has determined that the greater potential threat comes from our inability to control our borders or reduce the number of people who enter our country illegally across them.

An effective anti-terrorism strategy demands secure borders and knowledge of those currently in our midst. Failure to meet these twin requirements increases our vulnerability and invites further attack. The most commonly posited scenario for future attacks calls for terrorists to cross our borders illegally, hide in our crowded cities and

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