Seventy-five percent of those convicted of international terrorism or related charges in U.S. federal courts from 2001 to 2016 were born in foreign countries, according to a report released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DoJ) on Tuesday.
The report was ordered by Executive Order 13780, titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” The order calls for enhanced vetting and screening practices for foreign nationals and requires the DHS and DoJ to compile terrorism-related data.
The report released on Tuesday found that 549 individuals convicted of “international terrorism-related charges” in U.S. federal courts from 2001 to 2016. Of those convicted, 254 were not U.S. citizens, 148 were foreign naturals who received U.S. citizenship and 147 were U.S. citizens.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said it’s her “top priority” to ensure the safety of Americans.
“This report is a clear reminder of why we cannot continue to rely on immigration policy based on pre-9/11 thinking that leaves us woefully vulnerable to foreign-born terrorists, and why we must examine our visa laws and continue to intensify screening and vetting of individuals traveling to the United States to prevent terrorists, criminals, and other dangerous individuals from reaching our country,” Nielsen said. “Without legislative change DHS, will continue to see thousands of terrorists a year attempt to enter the United States, and while we must be right every time, the terrorists only need to be lucky once.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the report reveals the “indisputable sobering reality” that the immigration system has undermined national security and public safety.
“And the information in this report is only the tip of the iceberg: we currently have terrorism-related investigations against thousands of people in the United States, including hundreds of people who came here as refugees,” Sessions said. “Our law enforcement professionals do amazing work, but it is simply not reasonable to keep asking them to risk their lives to enforce the law while we admit thousands every year without sufficient knowledge about their backgrounds.”
The report also states that 1,716 aliens were removed from the United States due to national security concerns from 2001 to 2016. Additionally, DHS made contact with 2,554 individuals on the terrorist watch list — 355 attempting to enter by land, 2,170 attempting to enter by air and 49 attempting to enter by sea.
“The pillars of President Trump’s immigration policy — securing our porous borders, moving to a merit-based immigration system that ends the use of diversity visas and chain migration, and enforcing our nation’s laws — will make their jobs easier and make the United States a safer place,” Sessions said.