Tag Archives: foreign versus native-born

Whom Should We Fear?

Among the piles of literature I get, both via snail-mail and online (one of the perks–or perhaps the banes–of being an academic) are the periodic Policy Analysis publications issued by the Cato Institute. Cato, as most of you know, is a libertarian think-tank headquartered in Washington, D.C.

I have my disagreements with their economic policy perspective, but they tend to be very good on civil liberties and their scholars, by and large, are intellectually honest.

The most recent issue I received was fascinating. Titled “Terrorists by Immigration Status and Nationality: A Risk Analysis, 1975-2017, it was a thorough compendium showing which terrorists did what and why during those years. (It appears that people who enter on different visa categories pose different risks, which was something I wouldn’t have guessed.)

Terrorism, for purposes of the study, was defined as “the threatened use or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious or social goal through fear, coercion or intimidation.”

Here are some illuminating calculations from the Executive Summary:

  •  Including those murdered on 9/11, the chances of perishing in a terrorist attack committed by a foreigner on American soil is 1 in 3.8 million per year.
  • The chance of an American being murdered by a refugee is 1 in 3.86 billion.
  • Despite the rantings of our bigot-in-chief, the chance of an American being murdered by a terrorist who is an illegal immigrant is zero. You read that right: zero.
  • But watch out for tourists on B visas (the most common tourist visa). The odds of being killed by one of those guys is 1 in 4.1 million per year.
  • The chance of being murdered by one of our very own, home-grown wackos is 1 in 28 million.

No matter what the category, we really don’t have to fear that terrorists are lurking around every corner. We’re far more likely to be killed by a texting driver or even falling furniture.

Per the Executive Summary:

There were 192 foreign-born terrorists who planned, attempted or carried out attacks on U.S. soil from 1975 through 2017. Of those, 65 percent were Islamists, 18 percent were foreign nationalists, 6 percent were non-Islamic religious terrorists, 3 percent were left-wingers and the rest were separatists or adherents of other or unknown ideologies. By comparison, there were 788 native-born terrorists who planned, attempted or carried out attacks on U.S. soil from 1975 through 2017. Of those, 24 percent were right-wingers, 22 percent were white supremacists, 16 percent were left-wingers, 14 percent were Islamists, 11 percent were anti-abortion, and 6 percent were other.

What really impressed me about the analysis–which contained much more information than I have shared here–were the appendices: Table 12, which listed foreign-born terrorists, fatalities and injuries by the nation of origin, and Appendix 1, which listed every person–foreign or native born– who attempted or committed terrorism on U.S. soil between 1975-2017, and their ideologies.

A scan of those ideologies strongly supports Cato’s conclusion that religion, white supremacy and nationalism drive a hugely disproportionate number of these attacks.

Color me unsurprised.

And watch out for falling furniture.