America had an illegal alien problem long before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but with the border to Mexico so porous, homeland security quickly focused on heightening surveillance - and this racialized Latino immigrants, according to a sociology paper which used media accounts and government reports, often drawn on anecdotes, to make their case.
"Neither contemporary political rhetoric, nor policy, nor institutional change in regards to immigration and terrorism can be properly understood in isolation without taking into account how these issues are brought together at specific moments," Amina Zarrugh, assistant professor of sociology at Texas Christian University. "In fact, the endurance of certain political agendas is made all the more powerful through their connection with other important agendas, each of which reinforces the other."
Zarrugh and University of Texas Austin sociology graduate student Luis A. Romero analyzed political rhetoric, immigration policy, government reports, and non-governmental evaluations to explain how Islamophobia is deployed against Latinos to garner political support, create fear, and justify increased surveillance and immigration enforcement.
Citing examples of politicians blaming "porous borders" for "enormous problems," a commercial which paired images of terrorists with images of Latinos crossing the border, and fabricated rumors of a terrorist training camp at the U.S.-Mexico border near Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, the researchers concluded that political rhetoric in the aftermath of the attacks mobilized popular fear.
Putting words like porous and problems in quotes does not make them untrue, however. America has the largest undefended borders in the world, with Canada and Mexico, but only Mexico makes an industry of exporting people illegally. Legal Latino immigrants agreed with better enforcement. That is why new systems of surveillance were established as a result of legislation such as the USA Patriot Act, and the U.S. began to take a more aggressive approach to border security. Since 9/11, deportations have increased dramatically. From the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003 through 2013, there was an average of 334,000 deportations per year, and each year there were at least 211,000 deportations, a number never reached in U.S. deportation history pre-9/11. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security absorbed the Immigration and Naturalization Services and united 22 federal agencies under the DHS umbrella, one of the first examples of state resources merging to combat undocumented migration and terrorism as a single issue.