The September 11 terrorist attacks that killed 2,977 people and injured more than 6,000 in New York, at the Pentagon, and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, may have occurred 18 years ago, but terrorism – including its radical Islamist manifestation – remains a serious threat to the homeland.
According to the 9/11 Commission Report, “the 9/11 attacks revealed four kinds of failures: in imagination, policy, capabilities, and management.” It also revealed a fifth, no less important flaw: a failure on the part of our immigration system.
The nineteen 9/11 hijackers took advantage of our dysfunctional legal immigration system to harm Americans. All were foreign nationals, primarily from Saudi Arabia, and all “entered the country legally on a temporary visa, mostly tourist visas with entry permits for six months. Although four of them attended flight school in the United States, only one is known to have entered on an appropriate visa for such study, and one entered on an F-1 student visa.”
Since 9/11, the U.S. has accepted at least 2 million immigrants and refugees from nations with links to radical Islamist terror organizations – such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS. And, as the Pew Research Center shows, anti-Americanism is widespread in the Middle East, even amongst people who are not connected to radical religious factions.
The United States remains a target for radical elements in the Islamic world, as has been demonstrated by the string of terrorist acts that have been perpetrated since the 9/11 attacks. During the past decade, assaults on the American way of life, such as the Boston Marathon bombing (April 2013) and the New York City truck attack (October 2017), reveal that many countries in the Middle East, Eurasia, and North Africa pose a clear and present terrorist threat to the United States.
The United States would be foolish to ignore the clear connection between immigration and terrorism. In spite of this, the advocates of open borders and mass immigration continually downplay the danger. For instance, the Cato Institute argues that the odds of a person perishing in an attack by a foreign-born terrorist are extremely small and that there is “no relationship between stocks of immigrants and terrorism.” This is misleading because many potential Islamist terrorist attacks – 97 out of 114, according to the Heritage Foundation – were foiled by U.S. authorities. The odds argument is also insulting and offensive to the families of the victims of such attacks and reveals a nonchalant disregard for the safety of our citizenry.
What can be done to avoid another 9/11 and reduce the threat of Islamist terrorism? The Trump administration has already implemented some solutions, such as more thorough screening and vetting (so-called “extreme vetting”) and preventing people from states that sponsor and harbor terrorist groups from traveling to the U.S. In addition, we must also reduce overall annual immigration numbers to a more sustainable level to make vetting more manageable. That is why FAIR advocates bringing annual immigration numbers down from the current level of over 1 million per year to approximately 300,000.
Another step would be to eliminate the diversity visa lottery, which randomly selects up to 50,000 foreign nationals annually to apply for permanent residency. Terrorists – including the 2017 New York city truck attacker, Saifullo Saipov of Uzbekistan – came in via the visa lottery; others arrived on the basis of family-based “chain migration,” which should also be reduced. Furthermore, the Trump administration should continue to regulate refugee admissions based on our capacity to thoroughly vet people from terrorist hot spots.
As far as the safety of the American people is concerned, national security must take precedence over the niceties of political correctness.