On Sunday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump declared that his immigration policy would have prevented the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks which killed 2,996 people on American soil.
“I am extremely, extremely tough on illegal immigration,” Trump said on Fox News Sunday. “I believe that if I were running things … I doubt that those people would have been in the country.”
“So there’s a good chance that those people would not have been in our country,” Trump confidently added.
Obviously, Trump’s pronouncement begs the question: What about his immigration policy would have prevented the September 11 attacks?
Nineteen terrorists carried out the al-Qaida-masterminded attacks. All 19 of them entered the United States legally. None of them were illegal immigrants. Their visas were valid.
Chapter two of a document called “Monograph on 9/11 and Terrorist Travel” (part of the lengthy 9/11 Commission Report) explains how each of the 19 hijackers entered the United States. It also details how American consular officials and immigration officials spectacularly bungled the terrorists’ entry, and how the terrorists then perniciously gamed the U.S. immigration system prior to an extensive, post-Sept. 11 makeover instigated by the George W. Bush administration.
Eighteen of the 19 terrorists remained in the United States legally through September 11, 2001.
Satam al Suqami was the lone terrorist whose immigration status had expired before the fateful day.
Two other hijackers, Khalid al Mihdhar and Salem al Hazmi, had found their way onto terrorist watch lists just prior to the attacks. Mihdhar’s visa was revoked. However, both boarded American Airlines Flight 77 undetected.
Many of the hijackers entered the United States on standard six-month, non-immigrant tourist visas. Others obtained longer, more generous visas. Mohammed Atta and Ziad Jarrah had five-year visas good for both tourism and business. Seven others received two-year visas good for tourism and business.
Trump’s 1,880-word statement on immigration — entitled “Immigration Reform That Will Make America Great Again” — makes no mention of the word “tourist.” (It also fails to mention the word “student.”)
While Trump uses the word Mexico eight times, he conspicuously makes no mention of the countries from which the terrorists hailed: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon. Similarly, Trump uses the words “Mexican” and “Hispanic” 3 times each, but the words “Arab,” “Middle East,” “Islam” and “Muslim” go unmentioned. Trump does make a single mention of ISIS, even though the September 11 terrorists were affiliated with al-Qaida, and al-Qaida’s leadership can’t stand ISIS and think it’s full of crazy rubes. (RELATED: ISIS Yearns To Be North Korea And Nine More Things You Won’t Believe About These Muslim LUNATICS)
Trump comes closest to addressing terrorism in his 1,880-word treatise in two paragraphs toward the end.
The first of these paragraphs is introduced as: “Enhanced penalties for overstaying a visas.” “Millions of people come to the United States on temporary visas but refuse to leave, without consequence,” Trump observes. “This is a threat to national security. Individuals who refuse to leave at the time their visa expires should be subject to criminal penalties.”
Trump goes on to demand that local authorities arrest people who overstay their visas and imprison them “until federal authorities arrive.” He also wants a visa tracking system.
The federal government already had a visa tracking system in 2001 — as demonstrated by the presence of both Mihdhar and Hazmi on a terrorist watch list. Also, the Bush administration overhauled and dramatically improved America’s visa tracking system.
Leaving those critical facts aside, a visa tracking system and criminal penalties for people who overstay their visas would have (possibly) netted exactly one of the September 11 terrorists: Suqami — who overstayed his visa. That’s 5.26 percent of the 19 hijackers.
Trump also says “we need to stop giving legal immigrant visas to people bent on causing us harm,” in a paragraph under the section heading “Put American Workers First.” “From the 9/11 hijackers, to the Boston Bombers, and many others, our immigration system is being used to attack us,” Trump advises. “The President of the immigration caseworkers union declared in a statement on ISIS: ‘We’ve become the visa clearinghouse for the world.'”
The vague paragraph contains nothing in the way of policy prescriptions to prevent terrorist attacks.
Trump’s 1,880-word statement on immigration does not otherwise mention terrorism (except by Hispanic gangs “which have terrorized the country”). He does not explain how his presidency would have prevented the September 11 attacks or would seek to prevent future terror attacks on U.S. soil or on U.S. interests.