The Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security released a statement on Tuesday noting three out of four people convicted in U.S. courts of international terrorism-related activities between Sept. 11, 2001 – Dec. 31, 2016 were foreign-born.
Over the same period, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed approximately 1,716 aliens over national security concerns. Further, in 2017 alone DHS had 2,554 encounters with individuals on the terrorist watch list (also known as the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database) traveling to the United States.
“My top priority as Secretary of Homeland Security is to ensure the safety and security of the American people,” said Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen. “This report is a clear reminder of why we cannot continue to rely on immigration policy based on pre-9/11 thinking that leaves us woefully vulnerable to foreign-born terrorists, and why we must examine our visa laws and continue to intensify screening and vetting of individuals traveling to the United States to prevent terrorists, criminals, and other dangerous individuals from reaching our country.”
“This report reveals an indisputable sobering reality—our immigration system has undermined our national security and public safety,” added Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “And the information in this report is only the tip of the iceberg: we currently have terrorism-related investigations against thousands of people in the United States, including hundreds of people who came here as refugees. Our law enforcement professionals do amazing work, but it is simply not reasonable to keep asking them to risk their lives to enforce the law while we admit thousands every year without sufficient knowledge about their backgrounds.”
At least 549 people were convicted in U.S. courts of terrorist activities during the above-referenced timeframe. Of that number, 402 were found to have been foreign-born. [source]
(Analyst comment: Without getting into the politics of President Trump’s immigration policies, these figures are a stark reminder that the United States remains a target of terrorism regardless of how many ISIS, al Qaeda, or Taliban members we eliminate overseas. They also indicate the threat does not appear to be subsiding.)