Mustafa Alowemer, a 21-year-old man who was admitted to the U.S. as a refugee from Syria, has been arrested on terrorism charges for planning to attack a Pittsburgh church, the Legacy International Worship Center. Alowemer faces one count of attempting to provide material support and resources to ISIS, and two counts of distributing information relating to an explosive, destructive device, or weapon of mass destruction.
Alowemer was born in Daraa, Syria. He was admitted to the U.S. as a refugee in August 2016. Soon thereafter, Trump became president and imposed a travel ban on people from Syria and a few other countries on the grounds that the U.S. had not established reliable vetting procedures for these countries.
Alowemer’s case supports the view that our vetting of refugees from Syria wasn’t sufficient to protect the U.S. from terrorism.
The Huffington Post’s report on Alowemer’s arrest spends paragraph after paragraph trying to overcome its obvious implications for Syria refugee policy. The Huff Post’s Sanjana Karanth quotes a “United Nations expert on counterterrorism and human rights” who says there is no evidence that migration leads to increased terrorist activity. But the “migration” of Mr. Alowemer led directly to increased terrorist activity, and could easily have resulted in carnage.
Karanth argues that “most of the people fleeing violence in Syria and other affected regions are themselves victims of terrorism.” Maybe. But this doesn’t mean we can be oblivious to the reality that some of the people leaving are, like Alowemer, themselves terrorists or potential terrorists.
The Huffington Post cites figures purporting to show that “native-born terrorists” plan, attempt, or carry out more attacks in this country than foreign-born terrorists. Maybe. But we can exclude from entry terrorists and potential terrorists who come from foreign countries. We can’t exclude the “native born.”
Ideally, the U.S. would be a haven for refugees from war-torn nations. But our approach should be less generous when the nations in question are known to contain many people who hate the West and its values. And when our government’s ability to identify these people is deficient, or even just suspect, a decent regard for the safety of our citizens demands a highly restrictive policy.