National security, foreign policy, and immigration have been three topics intertwined in the history of America since its very beginnings. The idea that America is willing to open its arms to all who come, as long as this is done in an organized and safe manner, it’s part of what we are as a country and society. Trends in immigration and national security, along with the issues that arise with these two subjects and their relationship with foreign policy, have always been hot items in the legislature and never ending issues that lead to heated disagreements and even conflict by various members of society.
America has seen numerous immigration waves, and both its foreign and immigration policy have been influenced by worldwide events, including terrorism, natural disasters, and totalitarian states. While American society has learned to live with newcomers and the ongoing influx of visitors and tourists, it has also developed new strategies to improve the immigration system, while making use of good foreign policy, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all Americans, at the same time.
Over the last few decades, the United States has experienced a significant change when considering the way that America sees national security. Long gone are the days of simple statements regarding safety measures or protection against Cold War enemies. However, and notwithstanding the cabinet level structure of the Department of Homeland Security, and the policies and regulations associated with it, national security in America seems to still be in the developing stages.
Homeland Security, not only as a term, but as a government agency, didn’t see its light until the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It was not then that the Bush administration developed the concept and practice and made sure same were rapidly implemented (Brady 2016, 219-220). While initially it was a somehow vague concept, homeland security has become the new definition of not only the domestic theater of concern, but also the detection, deterrence, prevention, mitigation, and response to incidents that can harm the nation, its people, and its fabric, both nationally and abroad.
Academically, the idea of homeland security it’s more simplified, referring to the preparation, prevention, and response to not only terrorism or anarchy, but also hazardous incidents that require the physical protection of America’s sovereign territory. Still, homeland security it’s not always a synonym for national security, as the former aims to protect the American people and their domestic interests, while the latter seeks to do so abroad (Ibid.). This means that while the Department of Homeland Security is in charge of the domestic protection of society, and prevention efforts, foreign policy and national security are found in the hands of the Department of State and the Department of Defense, respectively.
The main areas of interest for the Department of Homeland Security are public involvement, the implementation of a national program at the state and municipal levels, and natural disaster preparedness. While the agencies that comprise DHS has had a mixed result when trying to achieve these initiatives, one of the most successful achievements has been the substantial level of public involvement in, as well as the awareness of the civil defense program (Roberts 2014, 355). Success on this field arises from a historical understanding about safety and attack awareness, that rose out of the World War II and postwar/Cold War years. At that time, Americans were more likely to participate and/or belong to organizations at the local level. In later years, however, civil defenders at different levels have used both the national and even the military program to prepare for non-terrorist or combatant events, such as natural disasters.
But homeland security is much more than safety measures and emergency preparation. A modern society dwells in many controversial issues that related not only to national security and safety issues, but also to international relations and the prevention of potential attacks. Whether we talk about FEMA, the USA Patriot Act, or the billions of dollars spent in the Department of Homeland Security, the main question that remains is one: is America safer than it was before the founding of DHS? The reality is that homeland and national security can be represented by many gray areas where there is not a final answer to some of the pressing questions that the American people have about this government agency (Rodriguez-Spahia 2017, 331).
The principles and ideas behind DHS and what the agency represents has both supporters and detractors. Some of the practices and behind the scenes maneuvers leave a lot to be desired, but at times society chooses to ignore blatant issues and concerns by siding with the greater good. For homeland security the greater good is represented by the American society and how it relates to those government policies which are allegedly used for the protection and safeguarding of the American society and the ingenuity it brings to the field of homeland and national security policies. But the average American citizen takes homeland and national security for granted, the same way he assumes that foreign policy is a matter being successfully handled by the government.
Foreign policy is generally defined as the sum of official external relations which are conducted by an independent actor (generally a sovereign state) in the field of international relations (Leira 2019, 188). This is the type of understanding that reinforces the study of foreign policy, its development, implementation, and review. At the same time, both society and government understand that when dealing with diplomacy at the classical sense, there are no universally self-evident principles of justice, right and wrong, or even truth, that most sovereign nations are obliged to pursue or comply to. This means that when discussing the goals and objectives of foreign policy, the only feasible and at times legitimate goal of said policy is the upholding and safeguarding of a state’s national interests (Cochran et al 2016, 437).
Due to a nation’s geography, resources, demographics, and particular history, the development of foreign policy of said nation is based on the objectives, and perceived interests, which are unique to the nation state in question. This means that the interests of different nations are bound to conflict with each other, as they aim to protect their own real or assumed ideals and goals. America is no different from any other nation on this aspect, and the main purpose of American foreign policy is to maintain the sovereignty of the United States, while supporting the natural rights and freedoms of the individual, at a worldwide scale.
As a discipline, international relations offers two very different approaches to foreign policy. In the first definition foreign policy is seen as carrying a self-evident meaning, comprised of the abstract expressions of the dealings and relationships between political entities. This means that in a broad sense of the interpretation, foreign policy is nothing more than the fundamental issue of how organized groups interrelate, especially when they are strangers to each other (Leira 2019, 187). If one follows this definition, then foreign policy is an analytic concept that transcends not only political communities but also historical periods.
Moreover, foreign policy is essentially different from other types of policies enacted by a sovereign state, which gives us another definition, where the political self is differentiated from the other. By this we understand that foreign policy is not just a bridge to be crossed and which is found between two distinct realms or states, but it is a concept that is not only divided but also joined, both in the inside and the outside of the state and the interstate system (Ibid.). Notwithstanding the obvious discrepancies that arise from these two different approaches, foreign policy is treated in both takes as the label that it’s used to analyze the various concepts that exist with regard to the relationships between different nation states.
One of the most important aspects of foreign policy, that also affects homeland security and immigration policy, it’s economics. The fact is that a nation’s economy cannot be distanced from politics, and therefore the former plays a significant role when considering the latter. When considering policy, and especially as related to immigration, foreign relations, and homeland and national security, one could say that politics and economics are nothing else but two facets of the same process in which a society achieves both individual and community goals (Ramírez Partida 2014, 57).
This means that most of the time, the most significant political events have an economic component or background, and vice versa. This relationship between the economy and policy making is crucial when considering the approaches taken by America not only with it’s immediate northern and southern geographical neighbors, but also whenever it discusses relationships and/or sanctions with other nation states. From the US foreign policy perspective, the most important instruments in play are international trade; foreign investment; and international aid (Ibid.).
However, these approaches might change from one administration to another, something which has been exemplified in the last couple of decades in America. The Obama administration claimed that the new government was coming in as a moderate, in an almost mediator role, very different from the alleged imperialistic and interventionistic moves of the previous administration. (Brânda 2018, 161). In this disguised role, the Obama administration portrayed America as a softer international power, focusing more on trade and commerce. New treaties were signed, relationships were developed with former enemies, such as Cuba or Iran, and the United States came to be part of the globalist agenda.
This was quickly changed during the Trump administration, when homeland security, foreign policy, immigration, and economics, were all based with the America first ideal. Just as Obama had campaigned as the pacifier after the tantrum that many believed was part of the policies held during the Bush administration, President Trump promised to not only do more, but to place domestic issues and needs above any foreign reliance or obeyance, thus ending the unnecessary burdens of globalist submission (Ibid., 162).
The new policies relied on self-assertion, and in the improvement of America’s economy and safety, without forgetting the role the United States plays in the world, while ensuring that other nations do contribute to global needs and concerns. These changes in policy were the result of a historical clash between the populism that exists in America, versus the liberal world order promoted by the globalist agenda. The previous ideas that the US would assume leadership in the world, replacing the UK as the leader, or later on, deter the influence of the USSR and promote a better economy once Communist Russia fell, were replaced with a more nationalistic approach in which domestic issues took priority over any other concerns that were not directly affecting the American people (Mania and Pugacewicz 2019, 16).
These changes in the policy perspectives, as related to foreign policy, but in consideration of homeland and national security, immigration, as well as economics, were the most visible aspects of policy discrepancy in the last three administrations. Laws and treaties have shown different ideological approaches toward the nation and the world, even though all avenues do aims to either restore or maintain the global position of the United States as an example to be followed by the international community (Ibid., 18). This America first stand has also played a crucial role in the development and enforcement of immigration policy.
- Department of State – Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights
- Migration Policy Institute – National Security, Terrorism, and Border Control
- Federation of American Scientists – Homeland Security & Immigration
- Immigration Impact – Border Enforcement & the Wall
- SSRN – Immigration and National Security