Officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Justice Department assessed that three out every four people convicted of international terror charges were born overseas. Muslim rights activists told Arab News that their study was flawed and biased.
US federal courts convicted at least 549 people with international terrorism-related charges between Sept. 11, 2001, and December 31, 2016, the report said. Of those, 254 were not US citizens and 148 had become naturalized US citizens. Another 147 were born US citizens.
The report names convicted terrorists from Sudan, Uzbekistan, Somalia, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen and other countries with large or majority Muslim populations, echoing President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about the threat from Islamist militants.
It focusses on acts planned and committed outside the US and those within the US that involved Daesh or another foreign group. It excludes acts of so-called domestic terrorism that did not involve overseas organizations.
“This report reveals an indisputable sobering reality — our immigration system has undermined our national security and public safety,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a Republican, said in a statement.
“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 US, including hundreds of people who came here as refugees.”
During the 2016 election campaign, Trump pledged to temporarily halt Muslim immigration to the US and, since taking office, issued a travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries and a ban on refugees that has been dogged by legal challenges.
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Muslim civil rights group, told Arab News that the report’s authors had cherry-picked data to substantiate their prejudices.
“It’s reverse-engineering the numbers to stigmatize immigrants and Muslims, and disregarding the high number of domestic terror incidents that are not included in this report by really sidestepping all the domestic terrorism by white supremacists and the like,” Hooper said.
“Going forward, every report and policy from this administration has to be viewed from the prism of racism and the white supremacy that’s at the core of what the Trump administration is trying to do, based on the president’s statements and actions.”
Washington is currently debating an overhaul of America’s immigration system, with Democrats pushing for an amnesty for some undocumented migrants and their children, while many Republicans want to tighten US borders and immigration rules.
Trump has linked recent terrorist attacks to immigration, and called for eliminating the green card lottery, restricting asylum applications, combatting people who overstay their visas and stopping the so-called “chain migration” of family members to the US.
In a recent meeting with Democrat and Republican lawmakers, Trump sparked outrage by allegedly disparaging Haiti and Africa with an expletive to express his reluctance to welcome migration from impoverished nations.
The White House says the current system brings too many people to the country who cannot assimilate and lack skills and education to contribute to society. It vaunts the point-based systems of Australia and Canada.
“Our properly functioning immigration system promotes assimilation in all its forms, through whatever mechanism by which those individuals come to the US,” a senior administration official said.
“It doesn’t promote the admission of individuals who are not likely to succeed, who are not likely to assimilate, and who could potentially radicalize or may already be radicalized to pose a threat to our national security.”