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The Relation of Terrorism and Immigration

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.  

By Caitlin Stein
October 22, 2018


In a 2016 study done by APNORC, most Americans selected terrorism as their main concern in a multiple choice survey. Terrorism was chosen over health reform, immigration, education and several other hot topical areas. That year was also the year that thousands of people in the Middle East died during the Battle of Mosul. People were killed for rising up against the Islamic State and people were also killed for not supporting the Islamic State. The Battle of Mosul technically ended in 2017 leaving ISIS largely diminished, but active by small cells and single person attacks. The Battle of Mosul was the largest terrorist attack in the past decade.

That year, 2017, brought a decline in concern of terrorism which could be a direct result of a severe decline in terrorist activity, specifically in the United States. This was also when the Trump Administration took a hard stance on previously enacted immigration laws as well as the banning of nationalists from some eight questionable countries. Even so, the National Conference for State Legislatures report estimates the total number of illegal immigrants in the United States to be somewhere above eleven million people with the largest portion expected to be from the Middle East.

Immigration and Terrorism

Many constituents do not approve of the Trump Administration or their stance on immigration and border control. With that being said, the recent decisions made to secure the American borders can be seen as a direct correlation to the decline in terrorism in America. America remains a power to be reckoned with in the industrialized world and many other nations would like nothing more than to have the upper hand in dealings with our country. The statistics show that while some disagree with the current administration’s methods, there is a concurrent coincidence between strict travel and immigration laws and terrorism in the states.

The Center for Immigration Studies found that between 1993 and 2001, 36 percent of Foreign-born terrorists were naturalized and permanent citizens, 33 percent were temporary visa holders, 25 percent were illegal aliens and 6 percent were asylum applicants. Based on these figures, the strengthened immigration standards removed a large portion of potential terrorists. Many may argue against the criminal status of a large portion of the immigrants in the country, but anyone in American illegally is still a criminal whether it is a malicious crime or a trivial one. Those trivial criminals who are unable to be identified and registered, as all Americans are at birth, make the ability to keep our country safe that much harder.

Analysts remain concerned that America still houses several sleeping cells. Without the outside support and connections, those cells are unable to awake and carry out dedicated missions. The sleeper cells are expected to remain dormant and eventually break apart so long as crossing the American border remains difficult for key members of those cells. The first issue with opening borders is the ease that will be found in crossing the Mexico and United States border. Mexico’s government is widely known to be corrupt and cannot be trusted to keep Islamic terrorists from their land, thus allowing access to American soil as support and backup to sleeper cells.


In short, the Trump Administration has taken a defensive stance to protect America by limiting travel into the country. The decisions can be denoted to be a successful astringent to terrorism on American soil based on the terrorist activity still ongoing in Syria and Iraq, ISIS and ISIL’s home ground. In addition, the detainment of 5 top officials of ISIS by the joint efforts of America, Iraq and Turkey has stemmed a large part of the organization and tactics of ISIS and had helped protect America from further infiltration.

Author: Dr. Caitlin P. Stein, DPA. Caitlin Stein graduated with her Doctorate in Public Administration in 2017 and supervises the legal team with a locally owned finance company. She is a mother of two boys, happily married and a freelance writer in between. [email protected]

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