One year ago this month, the Trump administration’s Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security issued a report with an unsubtle title: “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” The document insisted, among other things, that three-quarters of the people convicted on international terrorism charges in the U.S. were foreign born.
In other words, if we want to stop terrorism, we’re going to have to stop dangerous immigrants.
It wasn’t long, however, before people started reading the report and noticing some rather flamboyant deceptions. In order to arrive at their conclusions, for example, Trump administration officials counted people accused of committing terrorist acts on foreign soil, but who were brought to the United States for prosecution. The administration also arbitrarily decided to exclude instances of domestic terrorism, despite their severity.
The Justice Department eventually acknowledged errors and deficiencies in the findings, but as the Washington Post reported, “officials declined to retract or correct the document.”
That’s a problem, of course, but it’s an even bigger problem that Donald Trump and his team continue to use fear of terrorism as a justification for a giant border wall.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Friday that Customs and Border Protection picked up nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists last year “that came across our southern border.”
But in fact, the figure she seems to be citing is based on 2017 data, not 2018, and refers to stops made by Department of Homeland Security across the globe, mainly at airports.
In fiscal 2017, the latest year for which data is available, according to agency data and the White House’s own briefing sheet, the Department of Homeland Security prevented nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists from “traveling to or entering the United States.”
According to Justice Department public records and two former counterterrorism officials, no immigrant has been arrested at the southwest border on terrorism charges in recent years.
When Sarah Sanders nevertheless tried again yesterday to suggest the wall would be a counter-terrorism tool, even Fox News couldn’t tolerate the deception.