There is a lot of talk around the country about closing immigration altogether, particularly for Muslims, and on the surface it can seem like a good idea. The biggest reason it’s a terrible idea is because it will dramatically increase the amount of radicalization of Muslims and even non-Muslims who are already in the country. In other words, our knee-jerk reaction to terrorism will increase the threat of terrorism in the country.
I remember not too long after 9/11 I had lost my wallet. I had no identification other than a couple of credit cards, a library card, and an old expired driver’s license. As fate would have it, I needed to get on several planes in the days that followed so I was able to experience what was called “enhanced screening.” It struck me that it was very different from airport to airport, but one particular screening process was so long it almost made me late for my flight. I was asked questions about everything from my neighbors (whose name I embarrassingly didn’t know) to who my Congressman was. I was indignant at first, but once I made my flight and settled in, I realized that I appreciated what had just happened.
In the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack, we have learned that the Department of Homeland Security could have accessed Tashfeen Malik’s social media accounts and learned of her Islamist perspectives. We could have learned that she supported jihad before she ever set foot in the country to commit it. There are so many things that we could have done, but we didn’t because of budget constraints and for the sake of political correctness.
Let’s explore this whole situation so we can understand the right path to fighting terrorism. Keep in mind that I am not suggesting we abandon many lawmakers’ plans to close down immigration and the refugee program because I’m weak on immigration. The reality is that the programs can be turned into our best defense against terrorism.
What I experienced in my 30-minute questioning session at the airport is nothing compared to what would need to be done for all immigrants. I’m not just talking about Muslims or those who are immigrating from countries that have terrorist organizations in them. I’m talking about all immigrants.
Of course, none of this will work with the current state of border security. That must be fixed first. This starts with building two walls (yes, Canada is vulnerable as well), increasing border patrol greatly, and improving the Coast Guard’s ability to patrol the waters that surround us.
Then, we must screen. We must screen the refugees. We must screen the immigrants. We must invest the money and resources to create a manageable bottleneck of entry into the country that is practically Draconian in nature. Background checks. Interviews. Polygraphs. Social media checks. Psych evaluations. Access to emails accounts.
Sponsorship should be a requirement and all sponsors must be heavily vetted as well whether it’s an individual or an organization.
It’s important to remember that the treatment of refugees and immigrants must be done humanely, but that doesn’t mean that they have the same rights as American citizens. Human rights cannot be violated, but personal freedoms enjoyed by Americans cannot be granted. Think of coming into the country like being on parole. They get an immigration officer with whom they must check in. If they miss, they get the ankle tracking system.
Again, and I can’t reiterate this enough, we must do this for all immigrants. Anyone who believes that easily identifiable Muslims are the only threat are naive. Extremism is spreading everywhere and to everyone.
Those who think that this is a lot to go through for the sake of immigrants aren’t getting the point. I’m not viewing this as simply a way to bring in more immigrants and refugees. This must be done for the sake of fighting terrorism itself.
Immigration for the Sake of Fighting Terrorism
If we cut off legal means through which people can enter the country, we’re missing out on a tremendous opportunity to discover the plans that are already in the works. The NSA and the FBI are very adept at tracking the activities of terrorists. That’s the reason why there has only been one major terrorist attack in the United States in the last 14 years. Do you believe that since 9/11 the San Bernardino attacks were the only ones that were planned?
With an appropriate screening process that can alert the authorities to attempts to enter the country by potential extremists, we’re better able to find those already in the country who have plans similar to the California terrorists. This is an invaluable tool already being used by law enforcement and cutting off all immigration or all Muslims from entering the country will only hamper those efforts.
It would be different if we had already been screening for a while, but apparently we have not. Now, we have to play catch up which means that we have to find those who are already planning attacks and mayhem within the country.
Why Shutting it Down Won’t Work
There’s something very important to remember that seems to get missed by many making bold statements about shutting down Muslim immigration. We have been losing the public relations war with the Islamic State from the beginning. They’re able to radicalize people who are weak in spirit, who are angry about something within western society, and who feel persecuted. Shutting down Muslim immigration will make it much easier for the Islamic State to recruit people who are already within the country.
We will position it as a reasonable precaution based upon the events in San Bernardino, but that’s not how it will play out on the world stage. The Islamic State and other Muslim organizations will point to it as proof positive that the United States is waging a war against Islam itself. This will play poorly overseas, but more importantly it will dramatically increase the ease of radicalization of those already here.
Yes, there are Muslims within the country who already have Islamist views. There are those who are already wanting to wage jihad. There are those who are angry with the United States, society, life, whatever, who can be radicalized without ever making direct contact with anyone. Syed Farook was already radicalized before he brought his terrorist bride over to the states.
By using extreme screening for immigration to our advantage, we will be better equipped to battle against jihad. It’s not a compromise to stopping immigration. It’s actually MORE potent in the fight against terrorism.