Those who work with immigrants locally say that since 9/11, it has become harder for immigrants to attend public universities, obtain a driver's license, get a mortgage or just hold down a job.
And, it is not just those of Arab descent who are having problems.
According to Jean Abinader, managing director of the Arab American Institute in Washington, D.C., many Arabs and Muslims are finding themselves under increased scrutiny, but he is seeing people of all ethnic backgrounds falling victim to bias and xenophobia.
"There's a rise in stereotypes," Abinader said.
One way this is demonstrated is in the treatment of workers, said Tim Freilich, managing attorney of the Virginia Justice Center, a group that helps low-wage immigrant workers in legal disputes with employers.
"We've seen more employers [since 9/11] that for some reason don't think they need to treat immigrant workers as well as their other workers," Freilich said.
Other discriminatory changes are more subtle, like the shift from using the term immigrant to foreigner, Abinader said.
These cultural changes, combined with new legal restrictions--such as those under the federal USA PATRIOT Act or Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles changes set to go into effect Jan. 1--have created what many describe as "a climate of fear" in immigrant communities.
"A scared community is not a healthy community," Freilich said. "We are a nation of immigrants, and Virginia since 9/11 seems to have forgotten that."
The new DMV regulations, passed in part because some of the Sept. 11 hijackers had Virginia IDs, make driver's license and ID applicants prove they are in the United States legally and introduce other changes, such as making the license or DMV-issued ID expire when the holder's visa expires.
This is the opposite of what many immigrant rights advocates wanted. In a region not known for its pedestrian-friendliness, not being able to drive often inhibits the ability of immigrants to find employment.
"There are a lot of people who are in the U.S. legally but cannot prove that," Freilich said. "Immigration law is very complex."
DMV has started an information campaign about the changes, but Freilich said internal regulations have already put the new laws into effect.
Similarly, on the federal level, not all the changes have been tangible. Rebecca Thornton, a staff attorney with the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, describes a change in outlook that has created a "zero-tolerance policy" for immigration violations.
"Prior to 9/11 ... many things were overlooked or not enforced strictly," Thornton said. Now, even routine, minor violations are used to detain or deport immigrants, some of whom may be suspected of links to terrorism or other serious crimes.
One major change has been the new registration system that requires immigrants from certain countries who were already in the country legally to report to immigration offices to be photographed and fingerprinted. Thornton said about 13,000 people have been deported because of this registry, and some because of Catch-22 situations where their paperwork was tied up.
New reporting restrictions for students, which started this semester, have changed the role of colleges' international student offices.
"Overall, we spend a lot more time doing monitoring ... than we do helping students get adjusted to the area," said Cynthia Tasaki, assistant director of George Mason University's Office of International Programs and Services.
While most students she works with feel very accepted in the GMU community, the required registration "has had a significant negative effect on some students," Tasaki said.
In the community as a whole, however, there has been an increase in reported incidents of discrimination and hate crimes in Northern Virginia.
A report issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in June looked at post-9/11 discrimination in the entire Washington, D.C., area and referenced a number of hate crimes in Fairfax County--verbal and physical assaults, destruction of immigrant-owned businesses and the burning of a swastika in a Fairfax family's front yard.
Most of these incidents were immediately after the 9/11 attacks, but Abinader, of the Arab American Institute, said he believes discrimination will continue to peak and decline each time there is a heightened security alert.
The report warned that police should continue to be vigilant of hate crimes, and said people who appear to be of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent are still experiencing discrimination in the workplace, during air travel and in other venues.
"When federal agents knock down doors of Arab American homes and handcuff the residents, or select people for interrogation apparently based on their ethnic or religious background, and without adequate public explanation, these actions have a negative impact on our country," the report states. "This contributes to an environment in which members of the public feel free to act on whatever feelings of fear, anger, and hate they may harbor."
That is not to say that immigrants did not face discrimination before Sept. 11, 2001. But, Abinader said, before 9/11 they did not have what he referred to as "roundups."
In the past two years, there have been several raids on homes and businesses of Muslim Americans in the area for alleged reasons of national security.
"There are 13,000 men facing deportation because they complied with the law," he said. "They're being treated like criminals."