Fact check: Trump, terror and refugees


Photo by Fibonacci Blue. 2017-01-20 This is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License.

Trump justified today’s anti-refugee, anti-immigrant executive order by saying that he’s protecting and defending U.S. citizens from terrorism. His order targets refugees from anywhere in the world and all immigrants and non-immigrant visitors from the predominantly Muslim countries of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Does he know that the last time a refugee killed someone in the United States in an act of terrorism was in the 1970s? That terrorist was a Cuban refugee. A Christian Cuban refugee.

The January 27 order halts all refugee admissions for 120 days and limits the total number of refugees to be admitted this year. Trump wrote, “Numerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes since September 11, 2001, including foreign nationals who entered the United States after receiving visitor, student, or employment visas, or who entered through the United States refugee resettlement program.”

Let’s look at the facts. A report from the libertarian Cato Institute (founded by the Koch brothers, packed with Republicans) looked at immigrants and terrorism from 1975 through the end of 2015. Here’s a link to the full, well-documented report, Terrorism and Immigration: A Risk Analysis. The report says:

“Of the 3,252,493 refugees admitted from 1975 to the end of 2015, 20 were terrorists, which amounted to 0.00062 percent of the total. In other words, one terrorist entered as a refugee for every 162,625 refugees who were not terrorists. Refugees were not very successful at killing Americans in terrorist attacks. Of the 20, only three were successful in their attacks, killing a total of three people … The three refugee terrorists were Cubans who committed their attacks in the 1970s and were admitted before the Refugee Act of 1980 created the modern rigorous refugee-screening procedures currently in place.”

No refugees were involved in the 9/11 attacks. In fact, says the report, “the chance of an American being murdered in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion per year.” Vox uses a more colorful example: you are more likely to die by having your clothing melt or catch on fire than you are to die from an immigrant terrorist attack.

Trump also denounced current refugee screening procedures as inadequate. His executive order calls for

“the development of a uniform screening standard and procedure, such as in-person interviews; a database of identity documents proffered by applicants to ensure that duplicate documents are not used by multiple applicants; amended application forms that include questions aimed at identifying fraudulent answers and malicious intent; a mechanism to ensure that the applicant is who the applicant claims to be; a process to evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society and the applicant’s ability to make contributions to the national interest; and a mechanism to assess whether or not the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States.”

That sounds like the program already in place. The screening process is ALREADY lengthy and exacting. You can see all the steps in the Obama White House infographic at the end of this blog post.

As I’ve written in a previous post, despite the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant focus of political rhetoric, the biggest threats today come from right-wing Christians, not from Muslims or immigrants. Politifact quotes Joel Day, assistant professor of security and global studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell:

“Empirically, domestic terrorism is carried out by citizens — not immigrants — with right-wing terrorism, racial hate crimes, and the sovereign-citizen movement making up a majority of domestic terrorist incidents.”

Facts – such inconvenient things for a president.


[Correction: typo – January 27 order]


Filed under immigration, Tracking Trump

2 responses to “Fact check: Trump, terror and refugees

  1. Pingback: Latest links and stories – February 21, 2017 | Immigration news

  2. Pingback: Keeping out refugees and other immigration news – September 29, 2017 | Immigration news

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