One month has passed since U.S. district judge James Robart blocked President Donald Trump’s executive order that placed a temporary ban on refugees entering the country. Since then, the U.S. has accepted over 4,300 refugees, the majority of whom have resettled from countries inundated with militant Islam.
Trump’s executive order had imposed three bans: a 120-day ban on all refugees entering the U.S., an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, and a 90-day ban on anyone entering the U.S. from the seven Muslim-majority countries Barack Obama deemed “countries of concern” (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen).
In total, 2,309 of the 4,355 refugees (53 percent) the U.S. accepted this past month are from these countries.
According to the Associated Press, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill sociologist professor Charles Kurzman found that “23 percent of Muslim Americans involved with extremist plots since Sept. 11 had family backgrounds from the seven countries.” With over 2,300 refugees resettling in the U.S., and without extreme vetting by the Department of Homeland Security, officials can’t be certain that ISIS isn’t radicalizing at least some of the refugee population.
For example, refugees from the Middle East and North Africa — including those from countries omitted from Trump’s list — are being recruited by ISIS as they head to Europe. Counter-extremism think tank Quilliam published a report last month that found that terrorist groups are paying smugglers’ fees to child refugees in an attempt to radicalize refugees.
“Young asylum seekers are targeted by extremist groups as they are more vulnerable to indoctrination, make able fighters and, in the case of girls, can create a new generation of recruits,” said Nikita Malik, a senior researcher at Quilliam.
The think-tank also classified certain geographical regions as “hotspots,” i.e., places where refugees are vulnerable to conversion by extremist groups. According to the Guardian, “Another so-called hotspot is the south Libyan town of Qatrun, where reports have indicated that Isis, which is believed to have between 4,000 to 6,000 fighters in the region, have waived £450 smuggler fees to allow refugees to travel north if they joined its ranks.”
Judge Robart’s ruling — as well as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to uphold the lower court’s ruling — has had a real-world effect. If ISIS can recruit refugees heading to Europe, it is just as likely that they can recruit refugees heading to the U.S.