Law & the Courts

It’s Time for Honest Talk about Muslim Immigration

Scene of the attack on students at Ohio State University, November 28, 2016. (Photo: Mason Swires/Lantern/via Reuters)
Some immigrants from jihad zones will be involved in murdering Americans. Is this an acceptable price for compassion?

At 9:52 a.m. on Monday morning, a silver Honda jumped a curb at Ohio State University and plowed directly into a crowd of students, sending bodies flying through the air. As students rushed to help, a young Somali immigrant, Abdul Razak Ali Ratan, got out of the car and began attacking horrified students with a butcher knife. All told, eleven people were wounded before a university police officer shot and killed Ratan, ending the attack.

Ratan is the third Muslim immigrant to mount a mass stabbing attack in 2016. The first occurred at an Israeli-owned deli in Columbus, Ohio, the second at a mall in Saint Cloud, Minn., and the third Monday at Ohio State. The attacks together wounded 25 people. The latest stabbing comes on the heels of Afghan immigrant Ahman Khan Rahami’s September bomb attacks in New York and New Jersey that left 29 injured.

The toll continues. Muslim immigrants Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev killed five Americans and wounded 280 in the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent shootouts. Muslim immigrant Muhammad Abdulazeez killed five men and wounded two in attacks on military recruiting stations in Chattanooga, Tenn. Muslim immigrant Tashfeen Malik accompanied her first-generation Muslim-American husband to attack a Christmas party in San Bernardino, Calif., killing 14 and wounding 22. First generation Muslim-American Omar Mateen — son of Afghan immigrants — carried out the deadliest domestic terror attack since 9/11, killing 49 and wounding 53 at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub.

And if you think these are the only terrorist immigrants — or terrorist children of immigrants — you’re sadly mistaken. The Heritage Foundation has maintained a comprehensive database of terror plots since 9/11, a database that includes foiled attacks. The number of Muslim immigrants involved is truly sobering. For every successful attack, there are multiple unsuccessful plots, including attacks that could have cost hundreds of American lives.

After all these incidents, can we finally have an honest conversation about Muslim immigration — especially Muslim immigration from jihadist conflict zones?

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When we survey the American experience since 9/11, two undeniable truths emerge, and it’s past time that we grapple head-on with them. First, the vast majority of Muslim immigrants — no matter their country of origin — are not terrorists. They won’t attack anyone, they won’t participate in terrorist plots, and they abhor terrorism. Some even provide invaluable information in the fight against jihad. That’s the good news.

The bad news is the second truth: Some Muslim immigrants (or their children) will either attempt to commit mass murder or will actually succeed in killing and wounding Americans by the dozens. All groups of immigrants contain some number of criminals. But not all groups of immigrants contain meaningful numbers of terrorists. This one does. It’s simply a fact.

Moreover, there isn’t an even geographic distribution of terrorists. We don’t have as many terrorist immigrants from Indonesia, India, or Malaysia as we do from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, or from the conflict zones in the Middle East. It’s much less risky to bring into the country a cardiologist from Jakarta than a refugee from Kandahar.

America can show compassion without opening its borders to an uncertain number of jihadist killers.

If the Democrats wish to maintain immigration from jihadist conflict zones, they need to rid their rhetoric of the language of “Islamophobia” and tell the truth. If they want to continue admitting refugees from jihad zones, they need to make the case that meeting the humanitarian needs of an an extremely small fraction of the world’s Muslim refugees is worth the cost of importing a small number of mass murderers. They must make the case that the human toll in America is the price we must pay for national compassion. Of course no Democrat wants a terror attack to occur, but Democrats must understand and acknowledge that under present policies, such attacks will occur — despite our best efforts to stop them.

But I’d submit that America can show compassion without opening its borders to an uncertain number of jihadist killers. We can maintain and expand existing safe zones in the Middle East. We can project power to continue to roll back ISIS and provide space for people to return to their homes. We can implement new tests for immigrants and restrict immigration from volatile regions. At the same time, we can avoid paranoia and appreciate the peacefulness and patriotism of the vast majority of our existing Muslim population.

The Trump administration has an opportunity to implement a rational policy — one that rewards friends, preserves Muslim homes in the Middle East, and protects our borders far more effectively than did the Obama administration. In the 15 years of American engagement since 9/11, we have worked with a host of interpreters, allied soldiers, and sympathetic officials — many of whom have endured enormous risks to fight jihad. We should welcome these people with open arms. Muslim immigrants from outside jihadist conflict zones should be welcome as well, provided that they do not profess allegiance to the ideology of our enemies.

RELATED: No, We Are Not ‘Doing Everything We Can’

During the Cold War, American law denied entry to the United States to any alien who wrote, published, or advocated “the economic, international, and governmental doctrines of world communism or the establishment in the United States of a totalitarian dictatorship.” We continue to maintain an escalating series of ideological litmus tests for visa recipients and green-card holders. We can and should expand those tests to deny entry to any visitor or immigrant who advocates the doctrines or ideas of ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban, and any other recognized terrorist organization — including by expressing support on social media for the goals, theology, politics, or leadership of those organizations. Indeed, the list should expand beyond known terrorists so that we’d exclude those who support the doctrines or ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Iranian Revolution.

Beyond this basic test, it is simply not in America’s national interest to admit refugees, visitors, or other immigrants from zones of jihadist activity unless they have a demonstrable record of loyalty to or cooperation with the United States or its allies. When we know that our enemy is seeking to infiltrate and indoctrinate these specific populations (and has greatest access to these populations), the burden of proof for immigration or entry should be squarely placed on the immigrant. If refugees need our aid, we should aid them in the Middle East.

#related#During the primary, Trump outlined a number of immigration proposals, including proposals for “extreme vetting,” temporary suspension of immigration from “dangerous and volatile” regions that have a “history of exporting terrorism,” and establishing some form of additional ideological litmus tests as a condition for entry. He has also advocated establishing “safe zones” for Syrian refugees in Syria.

This is a promising start, but within weeks, he’ll have to get specific. It will be his responsibility to maintain Muslim alliances, protect America’s enormously profitable international tourist trade, and maintain the free flow of commerce across international borders, all while keeping out those men and women who seek to slaughter Americans in the streets. With the exception of his overbroad and misguided proposed temporary Muslim ban, Trump has been at his hard-headed best when it comes to understanding the need for a nation to protect its borders. Monday’s events at Ohio State demonstrate that it’s time to put his broad ideas into precise and effective practice.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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