Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Mathieu Deflem


As the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States left many governments scrambling to find an appropriate anti-terrorist response to potential national security threats, the federal government took a stance on the 'war on terror' with new federal regulations and changes in immigration policy. A critical gesture in restoring the morale and security of the United States public inevitably included seeking an apt response that paralleled the devastation of the strikes. However, the resulting changes in society's reaction to immigration and the degree to which immigrants and non-citizens have become criminalized have also become palpable. Theoretically founded on relevant aspects of social control and deviance theories, this research will explore the manifestation of moral panics and the subsequent criminalization of immigrants in post-September 11th society. Traditionally, moral panic studies explore the formation and eventual dissipation of panics as they appear in society and move through various stages. This study will attempt to determine the existence of and reveal the conditions and possible lingering effects of moral panics toward immigration since September 11th, 2001, elucidating social control initiatives like the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, as a direct result of the growing concerns of immigrants and their presence, or even purpose, in the United States. Utilizing Goode and Ben-Yehuda's (1994) formulation of five indicators, concern, hostility, consensus, disproportionality, and volatility, this investigation will assess the extent of moral panics in U.S. society. Three theoretically linked studies, including document analyses, poll data, and federal immigration statistics, will provide an illustration of moral panics and the subsequent criminalization of immigration in U.S. society.