Kathryn Cross | Wellesely College
29-year-old Uzbekistan native Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov drove a rented truck through a busy bike path in Manhattan on Oct. 31, killing eight people and injuring 13. Soon after, investigators found ISIS-related images and videos on his electronic devices, suggesting that the attack had terrorism-related intentions. Saipov was later charged with destruction of vehicles and supporting ISIS.
Immediately, President Donald J. Trump took to Twitter to use the opportunity to speak out against current U.S. immigration policies. Nonetheless, his response was quite flippant and mis-informed, only further manifesting anti-Muslim, racist sentiments that Trump’s campaign featured so prominently. In addition, his proposed actions did not even offer a plausible plan for enhancing U.S. citizens’ safety.
Trump’s first Tweet in response to the attack was a statement where he asked Homeland Security to strengthen its Extreme Vetting Program, a screening process Trump created during his campaign trail. Although it has not been implemented in Homeland Security procedures, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders outlined what it would entail during a Nov. 1 press conference. It would include more biometric and biographical data and sharing that with partner nations and intelligence services.
Nonetheless, Sanders did not specify other details on how extreme vetting would be placed within American policies, and it is unlikely that it would be through Trump’s series of travel bans seeing as they have been repeatedly blocked by the Supreme Court. Consequently, this Tweet seemed to be a baseless promise, adding to Trump’s list of misinformed Tweets.
Another Tweet that had misinformation was his Nov. 1 tweet series on Democrat and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and existing immigration policies.
“The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty,” Trump said. “‘Senator Chuck Schumer helping to import Europes problems’ said Col. Tony Shaffer. We will stop this craziness! @foxandfriends.”
First of all, Trump was incorrect in crediting the Diversity Visa Lottery Program to Schumer. The Immigration Act of 1990 created the visa lottery to allow up to 50,000 people without sponsors--like an employer or relative--to receive green cards. Senator Ted Kennedy initially introduced it to allow Irish citizens to enter the United States to escape Ireland’s fiscal crisis and to diversify immigrants.
Second of all, Trump is even more incorrect to think that terrorism comes from immigrants. Trump’s main logic towards stopping terrorism is completely halting all immigration sources where terrorists have previously come through. But, there is plentiful evidence that American right-wing extremists cause more dangerous situations for Americans than left wing radicals or Islamists do.
In fact, Vox published a study that there have been over 70 domestic terrorist incidents between 2008 and 2016, while there have been fewer than 20 caused by Islamists within the same time frame. The Huffington Post also published a study, citing that almost a third of right-wing extremist incidents result in deaths, while solely 13 percent of Islamist extremist incidents result in deaths. Thus, the clear threat to American citizens lies within right extremists, who often act in the name of white supremacy or sovereignty.
Every time a terrorist attack like the Manhattan one sweeps the nation with grief, Trump takes it as an opportunity to call for making immigration policies more strict. But, this will only racially and culturally homogenize the United States and limit the unique opportunities that a diverse population brings.
To make matters worse, making immigration policies more strict will not even solve the problem of terrorism since most terrorist attacks are not perpetrated by immigrants anyway. In the case of the Manhattan terrorist incident and terrorism in general, Trump did not react in a logical or justified fashion.