Most people convicted of international terrorism in U.S. courts since 2001 were foreign-born, the Trump administration said in a report Tuesday that officials said boosts the president’s calls for tougher immigration restrictions and limits on travel.
The report also said deportation officers had more than 2,500 encounters last year with people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list — which works out to more than seven a day — and more than 1,700 foreigners have been kicked out of the U.S. on national security grounds since 2001.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen called the findings “truly chilling” and warned that it doesn’t capture the full extent of the threat of international terrorism.
“This report, unfortunately, is likely just the tip of the iceberg,” she said.
The numbers are being released as President Trump calls for stiffer immigration enforcement and changes to chain migration as part of the debate on Capitol Hill over what to do about illegal immigrant Dreamers.
Democrats and Muslim advocacy groups were incensed at the report, calling it misleading and an attempt to oversell the threats of foreign-born terrorists to the U.S. They said the data included foreign fighters captured overseas and then brought to the U.S. — people they said shouldn’t count in a report looking at ties between terrorism and immigration.
Top Democratic lawmakers labeled the study “bigotry,” and Muslim Advocates, one group, said native-born citizens present a “far more significant threat” to safety.
“The Trump administration needs to stop the fear-mongering, stop the lies, and stop this hateful, discriminatory campaign against Muslim and immigrant communities,” said Jonathan Smith, the group’s legal director.
The report was issued in response to Mr. Trump’s original travel ban executive order, which, in addition to restricting immigration from a number of terrorism-connected countries and curtailing refugee admissions, also asked for more transparency about threats.
The Homeland Security and the Justice departments compiled the data, finding 549 people convicted of international terrorism charges in federal courts since the 2001 attacks.
Of those, 254 weren’t citizens and 148 were foreign-born but ended up getting American citizenship through the immigration system. Another 147 were American citizens at birth.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said there are also thousands of people facing terrorism-related investigations right now.
“This report reveals an indisputable sobering reality — our immigration system has undermined our national security and public safety,” Mr. Sessions said.
Officials said they couldn’t pinpoint exactly how many of the people convicted of terrorism charges came to the U.S. as part of a family chain of migration, but several recent cases — including the attempted New York City subway bombing last month — involved suspects who gained admittance to the U.S. because of chain migration.
“Our simple ask here is that the United States Congress work with the administration to reform our immigration system to end chain migration, to end the diversity visa program, to tighten and close loopholes in existing laws that permit some of these exiting threats to enter or remain in the United States,” a senior administration official said.
Beyond terrorism, the 10-page report said that over the past six fiscal years, more than 370,000 foreigners deported had aggravated felony convictions or two non-aggravated felony convictions on their records.
The report also attempted to look at “honor killings,” in which a woman is slain by members of her family for having brought dishonor upon them — often by exercising freedoms American women take for granted, especially in matters related to sexuality.
The government analysts said they were unable to find comprehensive data but pointed to a 2014 Justice Department estimate of as many as 27 honor killings in the U.S. each year.
Another 1,500 forced marriages occur in the U.S., the report estimated.
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