The war in Israel, some say, has changed everything. While that might be an overstatement, it would not be wrong to observe that the raging battle between Hamas and the Israelis has the American public worried. Since the massive surprise attack on the Jewish state, a post circulated on social media of Iranian lawmakers chanting “Death to America.” Multiple fact-checkers have proven this is an old video clip dating back to 2020 and has nothing to do with the current conflict. But the sheer popularity of the false post is a tell-tale sign that Americans are on edge. Pro-Palestinian protests across the country didn’t help to tamp down the anxiety. If that weren’t enough, in Eagle Pass, TX, two Lebanese men and one Egyptian considered suspicious were detained. Department of Homeland Security has taken another 20 individuals into custody this week with “potential ties to terrorism.”
It’s clear the public is becoming increasingly concerned about terrorists who have crossed into the country undetected during the US immigration crisis at the southern border, which has reached a fever pitch since the Biden administration took over. Are Americans right to be uneasy about the porous border?
US Immigration and Terrorism
There are strong opinions on both sides of this query: Some insist that it is a baroque worry based on statistical evidence; others say it’s a sensible concern considering the number of illegals who have crossed and – for all intents and purposes – vanished into the United States. Thus, presenting both sides of the issue may help clarify whether this fear is warranted.
Most who believe it is unreasonable to connect immigration and terrorism harken back to an exhaustive study conducted in 2016 by Alex Nowrasteh and published by the Cato Institute. He based his analysis on visa categories. Of particular interest is a graphic detailing the “Chance of Dying in an Attack by a Foreign-Born Terrorist, 1975-2015.” For example, his statistical table showed the chance of an American dying at the hand of a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion or 0.00000003%.
For “asylum” seekers, it’s a bit higher but still a statistical anomaly at 0.00000004% chance. Those labeled illegal carried an even smaller number: “the chance of being murdered in an attack committed by an illegal immigrant is an astronomical 1 in 10.9 billion per year,” according to the report. These numbers (which included 9/11) clearly show it is unreasonable to fear a terrorist assault on the homeland with casualties caused by illegal immigrants.
On the Other Hand
A recent report by the House Judiciary Committee exposed the extent of illegal crossings, which add up to startling statistics: “more than 1.7 million known ‘gotaways’ have evaded Border Patrol and escaped into the interior since January 20, 2021.” This number is only part of the estimated “5 million illegal alien encounters” during the Biden administration’s tenure, according to the Judiciary Committee document.
So, who are these people who appear to have vanished into the US interior?
The Center Square interviewed former ICE Chief Tom Holman, who explained: “If you don’t think a single one of the 1.7 million [gotaways] is coming from a country that sponsors terrorism, then you’re ignoring the data. That’s what makes this a huge national security issue.”
Of those categorized as “gotaways” in 2023, “659 known or suspected terrorists (KSTs) were apprehended attempting to illegally enter the U.S. – with the majority being apprehended at the northern border, according to CBP data last updated Sept. 15.” These potential terrorists are only the ones they caught.
This week, several Republican lawmakers connected the dots between the vast number of illegals who entered the country recently and the potential terrorist risk. The Washington Times spoke with recently ousted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who said: “We have to take the example of what just happened here [in Israel] and say to our own intelligence, ‘What do we have along our border? What cells have we allowed to come in here?’”
The situation in Israel has triggered a hue and cry by many Republicans to do everything possible to close the US border now. But others claim that the war has only proven that walls don’t work because the Hamas invasion began with an estimated two dozen breaches in the Gaza-Israel border wall – long considered one of the most technologically advanced barriers in the world.
In an article for Reason titled “Here’s What the Hamas Attack Tells Us About U.S. Immigration Policy: Nothing,” author Eric Boehm railed against connecting the Israeli situation with the US immigration problem. “Conflating these issues only serves to make the debate over U.S. immigration policy more toxic and stupid than it already is. He continued:
“As Amir Tibon, a journalist who survived Saturday’s attack in Israel, described to The Atlantic on Monday, the structure included an ‘underground wall’ meant to prevent Hamas from digging tunnels.
“And guess what? The wall didn’t work.”
US Immigration and Terrorism: The Fear Factor
There is simply no way to tell how many terrorists are among the millions who have been allowed to enter the homeland illegally, and it must be noted these crossings have not been confined to the Biden administration. Still, the sheer number of people entering has caused citizens to worry about who is here and how many intend to harm us. In 2020 for example, a US census revealed there are 4.4 million Muslims in America. Should we be surprised then that pro-Palestinian demonstrations are taking place across the country?
In an article about the origins and abundance of fear, Psychology Today postulated, “If people didn’t feel fear, they wouldn’t be able to protect themselves from legitimate threats. Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger that has been pivotal throughout human evolution … ” At the same time, experts note that fear can be irrational. This means that no constellation of facts and figures can cause fear to subside. One can only hope that, in this case, the fears of the American people are unfounded.