Cracking down on immigration policy won’t stop terrorist attacks like the one in NYC

November 3, 2017

In the wake of the violent attack in New York where a 29-year-old man from Uzbekistan drove his truck into innocent people on a bike lane, there’s been increased discussion about immigration policies. The Trump administration is concerned about those entering the United States from politically troubled, majority-Muslim countries in the Middle East. And while it’s true that American citizens do need to be protected from threats, both domestic and foreign, there’s no reason to believe that cracking down on immigration policy alone will stop terrorist attacks.

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In the wake of the violent attack in New York where a 29-year-old man from Uzbekistan drove his truck into innocent people on a bike lane, there’s been increased discussion about immigration policies. The Trump administration is concerned about those entering the United States from politically troubled, majority-Muslim countries in the Middle East. And while it’s true that American citizens do need to be protected from threats, both domestic and foreign, there’s no reason to believe that cracking down on immigration policy alone will stop terrorist attacks.

Let’s look at the NYC incident. The perpetrator, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, was reportedly “inspired” by Isis. President Trump has made tweets that attribute the attack to ISIS, but this man was not a member of Isis; he was encouraged by their brutal videos. Isis has not claimed any responsibility. It’s easy to blame other countries for disrupting the peace, but doesn’t it seem like there is a glaring problem in America?

Deterring deadly crimes is not simply about controlling who is entering the country. It’s not even mostly about that. It’s about who is already here — and we’re not talking about people who came here from other countries for the overwhelming most part — how they’re being taught, how their mental health is being cared for, and the widespread availability of weapons designed to kill people.

According to a New York Times report on a study of Muslim-American violent extremism from sociology professor Charles Kurzman, “123 people have been killed in the United States by Muslim terrorists since the 2001 attacks — out of a total of more than 230,000 killings, by gang members, drug dealers, angry spouses, white supremacists, psychopaths, drunks and people of every description.”

The numbers, laid out plainly, put things in perspective. Our country certainly has a violence problem, but focusing efforts to combat it at immigrants will, from every logical standpoint, do very little to effectively address it.

And the horrific mass murder in Las Vegas is an example of terrorist behavior on a mass level coming from a white American who had no prior criminal history. In fact, a recent Vox article made an interesting point:

“None of the perpetrators of the major U.S. terrorist attacks carried out in the name of Islam in the past 15 years have come from the nations on Trump’s travel ban (either the original one or the new, revised version that was released late last month).”

While it’s admittedly painful and antithetical to what most of us have been raised to believe about Americans to recognize that U.S. citizens could exhibit terrorist ideology or act on their desire to target their home country, it is a reckoning that is so necessary when discussing what can be done to keep the country safe.

So how can these dire issues be intelligently addressed?

Unfortunately, there’s not one single answer. But it ultimately come down stopping the spread of xenophobic propaganda and improving public education and mental health treatment in order to recognize and address troubled behavior before it turns violent. And then there’s the issue of guns, the importance of which cannot be overstated. (Why is it that when an immigrant commits a crime, Trump wants to overhaul immigration policy, but when a white American kills many more people with guns, the president is silent on the issue of gun control? Hmm.)

If we’re going to talk about policy-level measures to ensure public safety, addressing the issue of gun control is key.

Having a reasonable and thoughtful immigration policy is certainly important. However according to the evidence, it doesn’t seem to be the first priority in addressing terrorist attacks in America.

We can only hope that lawmakers act responsibly and look to what other countries have done to combat mass violence, such as Australia, Canada, the UK, and Japan. In the meantime, if you feel strongly about these issues, don’t hesitate to voice your concerns to local and congressional representatives. Speaking up is always worth it.

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