Sunday, February 12, 2017

12-Feb-17: Yelling at each other about travel bans, some weighty issues are liable to get lost

Image Source: CBS News, November 28, 2016
From where we sit, it's deeply troubling that major matters of policy and public security have divided Americans, and to a great extent people elsewhere as well, according to their views about the new president of the United States and his nascent administration. 

If life were like Saturday Night Live, we might be able to laugh it off. But as the title of our blog indicates, that's not how we feel about terror, those who practice it and those who become its victims.

How much it's not like a TV show is borne out by a news report published today in Boston. Everyone's free to choose whether to accept its claims as factual or significant. But it's a mistake (we say) to treat questions of whether and how to protect our societies to the margins of some domestic political slugging match:
Report: Dozens of terror convicts from ban countries | Owen Boss | Sunday, February 12, 2017 | Boston Herald | 
Dozens of people from the seven Muslim-majority nations included in President Trump’s executive order on immigration have been convicted on terrorism-related charges in the U.S. since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, according to a review that contradicts an appellate court decision against the travel and refugee ban.
A recent analysis of information gathered last year by the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest led the conservative Center for Immigration Studies to publish a report yesterday revealing that 72 people who entered the United States from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen have been convicted on criminal charges stemming from terror cases since Sept. 11, 2001... The center’s director of policy studies, Jessica Vaughan, said the review’s findings “stand in stark contrast to the assertions by the 9th Circuit judges who have blocked the president’s order on the basis that there is no evidence showing a risk to the United States in allowing aliens from these seven terror-associated countries to come in.”
“This is just another myth that’s been put out there by people who are upset by restrictions on Syrian refugees that say, ‘There’s never been a refugee that’s committed a terrorist act in the United States.’ Well, there’s been 17 just from these seven countries, according to this information,” Vaughan told the Herald.
Vaughan said the subcommittee report, which is no longer available on the Senate website, relied on open sources because the Obama administration refused to turn over government records and found that of the 580 people convicted in terror cases since 9/11, 380 were foreign-born.
“I was shocked that there were that many since 9/11, and even more shocking that 380 of them were foreign-born, which debunks this idea that it’s all homegrown terrorism,” Vaughan said. “The information shows the threat from the inadequate vetting in our immigration system has been present for a long time and I don’t think the public is fully aware of that.”
In a ruling Thursday, three judges of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled against reinstating President Trump’s ban on travelers from the seven predominantly Muslim countries — and noted in court documents that the government “has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.”
And though the subcommittee report was never referenced in court, Vaughan says the proof is in the numbers.
According to the analysis, 20 people from Somalia, 19 from Yemen and Iraq, seven from Syria, four from Iran, two from Libya and one from Sudan were convicted in terror cases since Sept. 11, 2001. Vaughan said the subcommittee report — which includes names of offenders, dates of conviction, terror group affiliation, federal criminal charges, sentence imposed, state of residence, and immigration history — also found that 33 of the 72 were convicted of “very serious terror-related crimes” and were sentenced to at least three years behind bars.
Charges included use of a weapon of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit a terror act, material support of a terrorist or terror group, international money laundering conspiracy, possession of explosives or missiles, and unlawful possession of a machine gun, she said.
And though she admitted opponents argue the Senate report was flawed because it included people who were not necessarily terrorists because they were convicted of crimes such as identity fraud and making false statements, she was quick to point to the case of Abdul Razak Ali Artan, who was shot and killed after attacking and wounding 11 people at Ohio State University in November 2016. Artan was a Somalian who arrived in 2007 as a refugee.
“It shows that every category of immigration has seemed to be exploited by terrorists,” Vaughan said. “It’s not just people coming in on legal visas, it’s people we have admitted on green cards, some of whom have become citizens and that’s something that I don’t think has been fully appreciated.”
The sting is in how factual evidence - the kind people need in order to form serious views and make life-impacting decisions - is being manipulated to advance ideological arguments. So the Boston Herald continues by showcasing these skeptical views:
But Council on American-Islamic Relations spokesman Ibrahim Hooper dismissed the Center for Immigration Studies review as “push-back from the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim crowd.”
“They’ll spin whatever they can to try and make Muslims or immigrants or refugees look bad to promote their own particular agenda. It’s unfortunately expected in the world we live in,” Hooper told the Herald. “Our nation is so divided now that you get people promoting their particular agenda based on their own spin, on their own view of whatever issue, instead of looking at the reality of the situation.”
The reality is different from what the CAIR man says. Terror and what our societies do about it are not a matter of spin, but involve complex and weighty issues that in the literal sense of the words are a matter of life and death. It would be better if the discussion were conducted in sober and unemotional terms - but we might not have time to wait until that happens.

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