During a hearing last week, Seattle federal Judge James Robart asserted that (as best as he can tell) no foreign nationals had been arrested from the seven countries that were subject to President Donald Trump‘s executive order. However, it turns out, that’s just not true. There have been some foreign nationals, including refugees, arrested for reported links to terror that hailed from the countries that made it on Trump’s travel ban list.
Robart drew scrutiny from the President after issuing a temporary restraining order which essentially halted his controversial travel ban. The Trump order barred refugees from entering the United States for 120 days, and prevented all citizens from 7 majority Muslim countries including Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
WATCH Full Hearing:
Here is the transcript of what Robart said during last Friday’s court hearing:
Judge Robart: “How many arrests have there been of foreign nationals for those seven countries since 9/11?”
DOJ Attorney Michelle Bennett: “Your Honor, I don’t have that information.”
Judge Robart: “Let me tell you… The answer to that is none, as best I can tell. So, I mean, you’re here arguing on behalf of someone [President Trump] that says: We have to protect the United States from these individuals coming from these countries, and there’s no support for that.”
But, there are some examples of foreign nationals from these countries being arrested.
For example, according to the Department of Justice, in January 2016, Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, an Iraqi refugee, was charged with a three-count indictment alleging that he attempted to provide material support to ISIS. He allegedly wanted to set off bombs at two Texas malls. He pleaded guilty to the charges in October. Dallas local affiliated KHOU reported at the time that Al Hardan made many statements about his plans to travel to Syria and fight alongside ISIS so that he could become a martyr. According to the DOJ, Al Hardan entered the United States as an Iraqi refugee on Nov. 2, 2009 and was granted legal permanent residency about two years later.
In November, 18-year-old Abdul Razak Ali Artan, a Somali refugee, plowed his car into a crowd at Ohio State University, and then stabbed people with a butcher knife. He was not arrested, but would have been if a police officer had not shot him dead.
And of course, there is the 2011 story of the two Iraqi citizens who were arrested in Bowling Green, Kentucky and charged with allegedly plotting to help al-Qaeda in Iraq carry out attacks on American soldiers. According to a DOJ press release, one of the Iraqi men told a confidential informant that “lunch and dinner would be an American.” (Trump advisor incorrectly referred to this as the Bowling Green massacre, there was no massacre, the plot was reportedly foiled).
But, Charles Kurzman, a Professor of Sociology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill points out that there have been “zero fatalities” in the U.S. by extremists from countries Trump wants to ban.
— Charles Kurzman (@CharlesKurzman) January 26, 2017
This is a dramatic and misdirected overreaction to a relatively small-scale problem. Since 9/11, there have been no fatalities in the United States by extremists with family backgrounds in any of these countries. None of the 9/11 hijackers were from these countries either.
What about plots that did not lead to fatalities? According to a database that I maintain on Islamists involved with violent extremism in the U.S., fewer than a quarter have family backgrounds in one of these countries.
So, while clearly Robart may have been partially right, he was wrong to assert that no foreign nationals had been arrested all together. The Associated Press’s fact checking team even concluded that the federal judge “went a step too far at a hearing in Seattle on Friday” by saying this.
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