In a hilarious segment of Michael Moore’s film, Bowling for Columbine, the documentary film maker covers a wide range of pathetic, unfounded fears. The Year 2000 problem Y2K (nothing happened), the African killer bees that never came, sabotage of candy at Halloween (only 2 kids in the past four years have been killed by Halloween candy—poisoned by relatives), animals that attack lawn mowers, and escalators that maim. We all had a good laugh.
The most recent story of American anxiety comes top down, in the form of Donald Trump’s Executive Order suspending the U.S. resettlement program and banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for at least the next 90 days, “protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.”
As it turns out, every single deadly jihadist attack inside the U.S. since 2001 was carried out by an American citizen or legal resident, according to data collected by New America, a Washington-based nonprofit group. New America tracked nearly 400 cases involving people charged with jihadist terrorism or a related crime. In fifty percent of these cases, people involved were born in the U.S., while nearly a third involved naturalized citizens or permanent residents.
“Far from being foreign infiltrators, the large majority of jihadist terrorists in the United States have been American citizens or legal residents,” the report finds. “In addition about a quarter of the extremists are converts [to Islam], further confirming that the challenge cannot be reduced to one of immigration.”
This reports does not stand alone. The libertarian Cato Institute also finds no link between immigrants from the seven countries singled out by Trump and domestic terrorism. Combing through databases, media reports, court documents, and other sources from 1975 and 2015, Cato finds that zero people from the list have been involved in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. And the more left-leaning Migration Policy Institute, comes to a very similar conclusion in a 2015 study, The U.S. Record Shows, Refugees are Not a Threat.
Cato‘s Alex Nowrasteh goes as far to label the new U.S. administration’s suspension of refugee resettlement “a response to a phantom menace.” Over the last four decades, 20 out of 3.25 million refugees welcomed to the United States have been convicted of attempting or committing terrorism on U.S. soil, and only three Americans have been killed in attacks committed by refugees—all by Cuban refugees in the 1970s.
In contrast, the number of terrorist attacks committed on U.S. soil by anti-government paranoiacs and white fringe believers is significant. Slate magazine published a list 32 deadly attacks since Oklahoma City—comprising a total of 70 victims—largely based on a Southern Poverty Law Center project that is tracking terrorists attacks.
The perhaps most troubling aspects of the ban, of course, is its implicit scapegoating of Muslim immigrants. In a recent column, Intercept Editor Glenn Greenwald analyses how the rhetoric about Muslim refugees is “identical to that used to demonize Jews during the World War II era.” Greenwald demonstrates how the right-wing Daily Mail’s 2015 cartoon showing Muslim refugees as rats perfectly tracked a 1939 cartoon in a Viennese newspaper depicting Jews the same way.
Glenn Greenwald, Trump’s Muslim Ban Is Culmination of War on Terror Mentality but Still Uniquely Shameful. The Intercept – Jan. 28. 2017.
The New America Foundation, Terrorism in America After 9/11. A comprehensive, up-to-date source of online information about terrorist activity in the United States and by Americans overseas since 9/11. 2016.
Kathleen Newland, Migration Policy Institute, The U.S. Record Shows, Refugees are Not a Threat. 2015.
Alex Noweasteh, The Cato Institute, Little National Security Benefit to Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration. Jan. 25, 2017.