We Were Strangers Once, Too: Analyzing US Immigration Policy and Its Implications for Undocumented Immigrants between 1990 and the Present.

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In spite of restrictive immigration policies and border enforcement, migrants have historically found ways to cross the borders of the US illegally. When the end of the twentieth century drew near, the number of unauthorized border crossings rose sharply, and during the 1990s and 2000s, unauthorized immigration was a pressing political issue. In this period, legislation was enacted that improved border enforcement or made life harder for undocumented immigrants living in the US. However, the context in which such legislation was enacted did not stay the same during this period; the September 11 attacks drastically changed how the US viewed immigration, and this has had a significant impact on undocumented immigrants and their role in US society. In the 2010s, furthermore, there were several important indications that this view is changing yet again; the Supreme Court ruling in Arizona v. United States, the DREAM Act! , and the introduction of DACA and DAPA display a transition towards an immigration climate that is unlike that of the 1990s and 2000s. This thesis analyzes unauthorized immigration from the 1990s onward to the present, and argues that during these years, there are three distinct periods to be observed in US immigration policy, each with its own distinct features. It finds that during each of these three periods, significant differences can be observed in the ways in which unauthorized immigration in the U.S. is regarded by office holders and law makers. These differences are marked by a shift in which unauthorized immigration is viewed as an economic issue during the 1990s, to where it is viewed as an issue of safety following 9/11, and finally, to where a more tolerant immigration climate is being realized following the Arizona ruling.
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