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Loose immigration rules allowing thousands of Terrorists to slip into US undetected

The chance of an American being killed in an attack carried out by a foreign-born terrorist is 1 in 3.6 million per year

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FILE - A protester holds a sign at San Francisco International Airport during a demonstration to denounce President Donald Trump's executive order that bars citizens of seven predominantly Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., Jan. 28, 2017. VOA

President Donald Trump’s now-suspended executive order on immigration is based on a widely disputed premise: Loose immigration rules are allowing thousands of terrorists to slip into the United States undetected.

Shortly after a Muslim American gunman killed 49 people at an Orlando nightclub last June, Trump told supporters, “You have thousands of shooters like this, with the same mentality, out there in this country, and we’re bringing thousands and thousands of them back in to this country every year.”

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The president echoed that claim after a federal judge halted his order Friday. “Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many bad people and dangerous people may be pouring into our country,” he tweeted.

But experts say there is little evidence to back up that contention.

Indeed, most recent terrorist attacks in the United States have been carried out by homegrown Muslim extremists with few or no links to foreign countries, with recent immigrants and refugees accounting for a minority of mostly non-lethal plots. These same experts attribute that to stringent security procedures put in place after the attacks of 9/11 nearly 15 years ago.

“The U.S. government has been extremely effective at preventing the infiltration of terrorists into the United States,” said Charles Kurzman, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina who tracks Muslim American involvement in terrorism. “This is one of the great success stories of the post-9/11 era.”

Plots on record

Using open source records, Kurzman has identified 414 Muslim Americans who have been involved in extremist plots in the U.S. since 9/11. Among them were 217 natural-born citizens, 60 naturalized citizens, 39 legal permanent residents, 38 refugees and 15 undocumented immigrants.

In total, attacks carried out by Muslim American extremists have killed 123 Americans in the U.S. since 9/11, according to Kurzman.

The majority of cases documented by Kurzman were non-lethal, ranging from attending terrorist training abroad, to conspiring to join al-Qaida and Islamic State.

According to Kurzman, more than 100 American Muslims have tried to join Islamic State, mostly during the terror group’s “burst of mini popularity” in late 2014 and early 2015. A couple of dozen made it to Iraq and Syria, he said. No foreign fighter has returned to carry out an attack.

In addition, no one with a family background from any of the seven countries affected by the immigration order has been involved in a deadly terrorist attack in the U.S., though nearly 100 have been “associated” with violent extremism.

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“The level of involvement by Muslim Americans in violent extremism is still quite low as compared with the overall level of murders and violence in the United States,” he said, noting there have been some 240,000 homicides in the United States in the same period.

Support for ban

Nevertheless, supporters of Trump’s order say it makes sense to restrict entry to the United States while the new administration reviews procedures to make sure they are adequate.

“This is a temporary halt in order to allow the U.S. to implement the necessary security measures,” said Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates reduced immigration levels.

Current screening procedures are far from foolproof, he said, echoing concerns voiced by former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, and other security officials in recent years.

“That’s what the pause is intended to find out, so that we do have systems in place to make sure that we’re not admitting people who might pose a danger,” Mehlman said.

Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute in Washington, has examined data going back to the 1970s. Nowrasteh estimated that 3,024 Americans were killed by foreign-born terrorists on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015. All but 41 of those deaths occurred in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The risk of dying in a terrorist attack remains infinitesimal: The chance of an American being killed in an attack carried out by a foreign-born terrorist is 1 in 3.6 million per year, according to Nowrasteh. The likelihood of being killed by a refugee? 1 in 3.64 billion per year.

“In terms of the total threat that the U.S. faces on the homeland, it’s a lot smaller than people realize,” he said.

Numbers called misleading

In highlighting the terrorist threat, Trump has cited the more than 1,000 cases of Muslim American violent extremism under investigation by the FBI in all 50 states. And Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general nominee, last year released data purporting that at least 380 of the 580 individuals convicted in terror cases since 9/11 were foreign-born.

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But Kurzman and Nowrasteh said these figures paint a misleading picture. Kurzman pointed out that only a few dozen indictments per year have resulted from the FBI cases. Many cases are closed without charges, while others end up in charges unrelated to terrorism. In one notable case, Hussein Abuali and Rabi Ahmed of New Jersey were arrested on charges of conspiring to buy rocket-propelled grenades; they were indicted for stealing two truckloads of cereal.

Nowrasteh said that 241 out of 580 terror cases cited in the Sessions report were for offenses “related to terrorism,” even though “there is no such thing as ‘terrorism-related’ in the U.S. law.”(VOA)

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Pence Criticizes Europe For Iran, Venezuela, Russia Links

The atmosphere this year is one of apprehension, according to analyst Florence Gaub of the European Union Institute for Security Studies.

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United States Vice President Mike Pence briefs the media during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. VOA

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence strongly criticized European allies Saturday for their stance on Iran and Venezuela, in a speech at the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

“The time has come for our European partners to stop undermining U.S. sanctions against this murderous, revolutionary regime. The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal,” Pence told delegates.

He also called on allies to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela. More than 20 European states have done so, but the European Union has stopped short of fully recognizing Guaido as president. Disputed president Nicholas Maduro is widely accused of vote-rigging to win last years’ election, while the country is mired in poverty and hyperinflation.

“Once more the Old World can take a strong stand in support of freedom in the New World. Today we call on the European Union to step forward for freedom and recognize Juan Guaido as the only legitimate president of Venezuela,” Pence said.

China repeatedly was singled out by the vice president as a threat to the United States and its allies.

“The United States has also been very clear with our security partners on the threat posed by Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies, as Chinese law requires them to provide Beijing’s vast security apparatus with access to any data that touches their network or equipment.”

Pence repeated Washington’s calls for European NATO allies to do more to meet their military spending targets — and cautioned against developing economic links with Moscow, such as the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline currently under construction between Russia and Germany.

United States Vice President Mike Pence delivers his speech during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019.
United States Vice President Mike Pence delivers his speech during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. VOA

“We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East,” Pence said.

Moscow’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov took the stage later Saturday, and said Europe was losing out because of its stance on Russia.

“At a time when the Europeans allowed to draw themselves into a senseless standoff with Russia and incurred multi-billion-dollar losses from the sanctions pushed for from overseas, the world is rapidly changing. Actually, the EU has lost its monopoly on the regional integration agenda,” Lavrov said.

China’s senior delegate did not respond directly to the accusations made by Vice President Pence, but instead he offered a defense of multilateralism.

“Our world stands at a crossroads and faces a consequential choice between unilateralism and multilateralism, conflict and dialogue, isolation and openness,” Yang Jiechi, a senior member of the politburo and a former Chinese ambassador to the U.S., told delegates.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, welcomes United States Vice President Mike Pence, left, for a bilateral meeting during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, welcomes United States Vice President Mike Pence, left, for a bilateral meeting during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. VOA

Those sentiments were earlier echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who strongly criticized U.S. President Donald Trump’s claims that Europe was taking advantage of America on trade.

The Munich Security Conference is seen as a key annual forum for world leaders to discuss global security concerns and conflicts — both in public and in private — in dozens of closed-door meetings taking place inside the venue.

The atmosphere this year is one of apprehension, according to analyst Florence Gaub of the European Union Institute for Security Studies.

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“There is still a lot of grief over the old order being gone where everything was much more predictable, or at least appeared to be more predictable. So that’s slowly setting in,” said Gaub.

The tone of the conference speeches suggests that even among allies, tensions over a changing world order are no closer to being solved. (VOA)