In Tuesday testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen testified that 73 percent of individuals convicted of international terrorism-related charges in U.S. federal courts over the past 15 years were foreign-born.
“According to a list maintained by the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, at least 549 individuals were convicted of international terrorism-related charges in U.S. federal courts between Sept. 11, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2016. Of the 549 individuals, 402 were foreign-born — that’s 73 percent,” Nielsen said in her opening statement.
Nielsen, who took charge of the Department of Homeland Security in early December, said that figure does not account for those convicted of domestic terrorism charges, those convicted in state courts, or others facing pending charges. The number largely consists of those arrested during the War on Terror, which includes wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries.
“This report is likely just the tip of the iceberg,” Nielsen said.
The findings emerged from a report mandated by President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13780, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.”
The new report revealed that the Department of Homeland Security intercepted 2,554 individuals on the terrorist watch list who attempted to travel to the U.S. in fiscal year 2017.
“That equates to seven terrorists a day. Fifty a week,” Neilsen said. “The vast majority — 2,170 — were attempting to enter by air, but 335 were attempting to cross a land border, and 49 were attempting to enter by sea.”
In a news release from the Department of Justice regarding the report, Nielsen said, “My top priority as Secretary of Homeland Security is to ensure the safety and security of the American people. 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 contended that, 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. Therefore, DHS has personnel deployed around the world and along our borders working with our global and domestic law enforcement partners to stop terrorists before they enter the homeland.”
Additional alarming data released by the Justice Department:
From October 1, 2011, to September 30, 2017, a total of 355,345 non-U.S. citizen offenders, were administratively arrested after previously being convicted of an aggravated felony, as defined in 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43), or two or more crimes each punishable by more than one year (felony offenses). During that same period, a total of 372,098 non-U.S. citizen offenders were removed from the United States after conviction of an aggravated felony or two or more felonies.
Data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate shows that between 2007 and 2017, USCIS referred 45,858 foreign nationals who applied for immigration benefits to ICE for criminal or civil enforcement action, based on information indicating that such foreign nationals had committed egregious public safety-related offenses within the United States.
Between FY 2010 and FY 2016, CBP identified and prevented the boarding of 73,261 foreign travelers on flights destined for the United States, who may have presented an immigration or security risk.