Boundless Report Details How 9/11 Changed the U.S. Immigration System, Travel, and American Sentiment


Comprehensive data looks at immigration policy before 9/11 and the impact on education, refugees, North American border crossings and visa programs 20 years later

Sep 8, 2021


SEATTLE, September 8, 2021 – Boundless Immigration, an organization that empowers families to navigate the immigration system more confidently, today released a comprehensive report on how 9/11 drastically altered the U.S. immigration system and how its effects are still being felt 20 years later.

Based on a novel analysis of public data from sources such as Gallup, National Immigration Forum, Migration Policy Institute, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, How September 11 Changed the U.S. Immigration System details at length the state of U.S. immigration prior to the events of 9/11, the immediate impact on immigration policy in the months and years following the attack, and how American sentiment toward U.S. immigration has continued to devolve.

One of the most long-lasting and well-known impacts on immigration was the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2002. But it was what didn’t happen that curbed immigration the most. Prior to September 11, 2001, many political analysts believed that comprehensive immigration reform was imminent, with former U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexico President Vicente Fox engaged in negotiations for an immigration agreement that was called one of the biggest changes in immigration policy in the past quarter-century. Following the attack, negotiations for a U.S.-Mexico bilateral migration agreement collapsed almost immediately.

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“Before 9/11, the United States was the leader of an era marked by relative openness and optimism in global affairs,” Xiao Wang, CEO and co-founder, Boundless Immigration. “Since then, instead of viewing immigration through a lens of economics and foreign policy, the United States came to view immigration mostly through a lens of security and risk.”

Additional findings of this report include:

  • Anti-Immigration Sentiment: In September 2001, only 8% of Americans wanted to decrease immigration in the US. Today, more than ⅓ of the population wants to curb immigration.
  • Education: After 9/11, there was an average of a 30% decrease in international applications among U.S. colleges and universities
  • Refugees: U.S. refugee admissions fell by 63% between 2000 and 2002, and didn’t return to pre-9/11 levels until 2009.
  • Mexico/Canada: There was a 31% decrease in U.S.-Canada border crossings and a 21% decrease in U.S.-Mexico border crossings between 2000 and 2004

The U.S. Visa Waiver Program was also significantly altered. Before 9/11, in order for a country to participate in the program, its visa refusal rate had to be below 3 percent. As a part of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (better known as the 9/11 act), Congress made changes to these guidelines. In order to encourage more countries to actively cooperate with U.S. antiterrorism goals, the 9/11 Act allowed countries to participate in the VWP with visa refusal rates between 3 percent and 10 percent, if those countries agreed to participate in information sharing and counterterrorism initiatives. Eight countries joined the Visa Waiver Program as a result of this policy change.

For more information, access the full report.

About Boundless Immigration

Boundless Immigration is dedicated to empowering all families to navigate the immigration system more confidently, rapidly, and affordably. Founded in 2017 by immigration policy and technology experts — many of whom went through the U.S. immigration process themselves — the company created an online platform that has helped tens of thousands of people apply for green cards and U.S. citizenship while providing access to independent immigration attorneys.


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