Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen might not like what they found in their mailboxes this morning. Eighteen former government officials—mostly from Intelligence and Security agencies—sent the two cabinet members a letter criticizing them for allegedly overstating the connection between terrorism and immigration. “We write to emphasize the damage that DOJ’s and DHS’s continued dissemination of misleading information can inflict on vital counterterrorism efforts ” the letter to Trump cabinet officials stated.
The letter was written in response to the “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” report the Trump administration released this past January. The report claimed that the vast majority of terrorists were foreign born. It was written to support Trump’s ban on travel from several Muslim countries, such as Iran, and to support efforts to overhaul immigration to be merit-based.
Those eighteen officials who sent Sessions and Nielsen the letter are hearing none of it. They allege that the administration is intentionally misrepresenting information to support its narrative. Further, they also believe that both the report and the administration’s efforts to ban travel and overhaul immigration will actually make the situation worse. Far from reducing terrorism, they claim, these efforts will create a more favorable environment for terrorists to operate and recruit new members. “Allowing misunderstandings to continue to circulate would undermine the objectives of effective counterterrorism policy and exacerbate the fear and division that terrorists seek to create,” the letter pointed out.
The authors of the letter refute the claim that there is a strong link between being foreign-born and terrorism. They state that data and studies “have shown no identifiable correlation between ‘foreignness’ and terrorist activity in the past 15 years.” The letter criticizes the Trump administration’s claim that 73 percent of convicted terrorists were foreign-born. The authors believe this is misleading because 148 of the individuals were naturalized citizens and the report did not include acts of domestic terrorism.
However, one could note that the Trump administration merely claimed that the individuals in question were “foreign-born” and that moving to a merit-based immigration system rather than a lottery could potentially reduce the risk of naturalizing people who could later become terrorists.
The letter rightly notes that the DOJ report includes people who committed offenses abroad and were then transported to the United States, tried, and convicted in American courts. Given that their offenses were committed abroad and that they were brought here by our government, including them does seem disingenuous.
Personally, I support increased immigration and accepting more refugees, so long as they are screened. I believe that immigrants contribute a lot to our nation. Many of America’s most profitable companies have been founded by foreign-born individuals, and many of our brightest researchers were likewise born elsewhere.
I’d want to see merit-based immigration installed alongside the lottery system, thus increasing immigration. Having a larger, younger population would increase government revenues as more workers pay taxes. It could also reduce Social Security deficits, which are threatening to quickly deplete the Social Security Trust Fund.
There are downsides to everything. Housing prices might rise, already-present Americans would have to compete for jobs and the like. Still, I’d argue that immigrants are vital to our future success as a nation.