During his first speech to Congress on Tuesday, President Trump falsely claimed that foreigners have committed the “vast majority” of terrorism-related offenses in the United States since the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. He used that claim to defend his support for stricter border controls.
In his speech, Trump vowed to protect the United States by demolishing the militant group ISIS. The president pointed to both domestic and international attacks as reasons for having a stringent vetting process for people entering the United States. He did not explicitly mention a “Muslim ban” on travel, but he signaled that his administration would “take new steps to keep our nation safe.”
“According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country,” Trump claimed in his speech. “We have seen the attacks at home -– from Boston to San Bernardino to the Pentagon and yes, even the World Trade Center.”
“It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur,” Trump added. “Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values.”
Trump mentions Boston, San Bernardino, the Pentagon & the World Trade Center. None of those attackers were from countries in his travel ban. pic.twitter.com/cgkcB8YQQc
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) March 1, 2017
Trump inaccurately depicted the domestic attacks as committed by people from the countries included in the Muslim ban. The Boston Marathon bombing suspects were brothers born in Kyrgyzstan and Russia who were resettled in the United States as refugees in 2001. The man involved in the San Bernardino shooting was born in Illinois, while his wife was born in Pakistan. And the September 11 hijackers were born in places not on the Trump administration’s banned countries list.
A recent Department of Homeland Security draft report did not find evidence that the people excluded because of the Muslim ban pose a terror threat to the country. As the Washington Post reported, “more than half of the 82 people who died in the pursuit of or were convicted of any terrorism-related offense inspired by a foreign terrorist organization, slightly more than half were native-born U.S. citizens.”
But more importantly, foreigners pose less of a threat to Americans than right-wing extremists on domestic soil. In a 2015 New York Times article, University of North Carolina Professor Charles Kurzman and Duke Professor David Schanzer found that Islam-inspired terror attacks accounted for 50 deaths since 9/11, but that “right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities.”
Still, Trump’s administration has promised less scrutiny on white supremacy and extremism. A revised Muslim ban is also expected in the coming days.