Hundreds of refugees who have traveled to the United States from other countries, many of which are on the banned travel list in President Trump’s newest executive order, are subjects of FBI counter-terrorism investigations involving ISIS.
President Trump signed the new order on Monday, which sets into effect a temporary travel ban for people in Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen who do not currently have travel visas.
Just a few short hours after he signed the executive order, a report was released by the Department of Homeland Security that states 300 out of the current 1,000 domestic terrorism cases involve refugees admitted from these countries. The report by the DHS was later confirmed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a news conference. The Attorney General also clarified that many of the suspected terrorists came to the U.S. to “infiltrate” our borders, while others were radicalized after they arrived in the country.
During the news conference, Sessions also stated, “Like every nation, the United States has a right to control who enters our country and to keep out those who would do us harm.”
The new ban temporary restricts travel from the list of six Muslim-majority countries, while giving U.S. government officials a chance to review the current vetting processes for admitting travel visas in each of those countries. After the review is complete, officials in each country will have 50 days to comply with any changes the United States requests. Failure to meet the requirements in the allotted time may force the U.S. to extend the ban until a resolution is made.
The Trump administration made its first attempt at a temporary travel ban back in January, but it was overturned by a federal court shortly after it was signed by the president. The new order is meant to work as a revised edition of the original.
Key changes in the new order include the omission of Iraq from the list of countries, and the inclusion of Syrian refugees in the United States’ refugee program. In the first order, Iraq was among the then-seven countries included in the temporary travel restriction. Since then, the U.S. and Iraq have come to an agreement in which Iraq will work to make any changes the U.S. requires to its vetting process, and the country will also enhance its military to help the U.S. in fighting off ISIS forces in the region.
Syrian refugees were not included as part of the U.S.’s refugee program in Trump’s original executive order. When the new order goes into effect on March 16, the entire refugee program will be put on hold for 120 days. After that period, Syrian refugees will be able to apply for travel visas along with everyone else.
After Monday’s announcement, officials requested clarification on another report, which was leaked from the DHS. In that report, there was no connection between any refugees from the temporary ban list and any ongoing investigations into domestic terrorist attacks or probes in the United States.
The DHS claimed the leaked report had not been made official by the department, which means it was not ‘looked over’ by the required officials and did not reflect any confidential information because it was a void document.
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly also spoke on Monday during the news conference. He said the temporary travel ban is key to making sure the refugee program is conducted safely, and by doing so, the current volume of refugees involved in FBI investigations can potentially be avoided in the future.
“We must undertake a rigorous review of our visa and refugee vetting programs to increase our confidence in the entry decisions we make for visitors and immigrants to the United States,” Kelly said. “We cannot risk the prospect of malevolent actors using our immigration system to take American lives.”
There have been some cases of refugees participating in attacks on American soil due to apparent Islamic radicalization.
Abdul Razak Ali Artan, a Somali refugee, was the assailant behind the attack at Ohio State University in November, when he rammed his car into a crowd and posted a Facebook message telling Americans not to interfere with Muslim communities. Seddique Mateen, an Afghan refugee, is the father of Omar Mateen, the Pulse nightclub shooter who took the lives of 49 club goers who were “engaging in activity he did not approve of” because the nightclub catered to Orlando’s gay community. Another Somali refugee, Dahir Adan, injured nine people in a stabbing rampage at a Minnesota mall in September of last year. He reportedly asked one victim if they were Muslim before attacking them, and yelled “Allahu Akbar,” which means “Allah is Greater,” throughout the attack.
These are all examples of refugees who were radicalized after coming to the states, but many others were actually given the task of attacking the United States prior to traveling.
Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were the brothers who orchestrated the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. They were born in Kyrgyzstan, but entered the U.S. after their family filed for asylum. Pakistan traveler, Tashfeen Malik, came to the U.S. on a K-1 “fiancée” visa. After arriving in the States, she helped her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, plan and execute a shooting spree in San Bernardino, CA, which killed 14 and injured 22 others in December 2015. While she was not a refugee, she did receive a travel visa to travel to the United States, but was found to have achieved it solely for the task of following through with the attack alongside her husband.
By halting travel from the six Muslim-majority countries and reviewing their processes for travel visas, the Department of Homeland Security is working to create safer borders for American citizens. If working with these countries to improve their vetting procedures means less terrorist activity in our schools, workplaces, and even homes, then it’s worth the 90-day travel restriction. The new administration is working hard to keep us safe, so let’s let them do their job.