What Donald Trump Gets Wrong About This Weekend's Attacks

September 19th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

After authorities captured Ahmad Khan Rahami — the suspect allegedly behind the weekend bombings in New York and New Jersey — on Monday, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made a series of dubious claims about how his policy proposals would have prevented the attack.


Let's unpack the speech Trump gave today in Estero, Florida.

Claim: "There have been Islamic terrorist attacks in Minnesota and New York City and in New Jersey. These attacks and many others were made possible because of our extremely open immigration system, which fails to properly vet and screen the individuals or families coming into our country."

Fact: The attacks in New York and New Jersey were allegedly carried out by a naturalized citizen who was born in Afghanistan, CNN reported. He came to the U.S. when he was seven years old and his family was presumably subjected to the same screening process as all immigrants entering the United States. In a 2011 lawsuit, his parents alleged that police and businesses in their community had harassed them because of their religion. 

And while those who knew Rahami growing up claimed that he "lived a normal New Jersey life, he reportedly went off the radar about four years ago. Still, after multiple, recent visits to Afghanistan, U.S. officials questioned Rahami and determined that he did not show signs of radicalization.

(It is also worth noting that while the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack in Minnesota, officials have not yet determined the motive behind Rahami's attack.)

The Minnesota attacker, Dahir Adan​, was the son of Somali refugees and lived in the U.S. for the majority of his life, The New York Times reported. Again, his family was subjected to standard refugee screening procedures that would not have been able to prevent him from carrying out an attack.

Claim: "It’s just a plain fact that our current immigration system makes no real attempt to determine the views of the people entering."

Fact: This is patently false. Immigration screening in the U.S. involves asking applicants questions about their ideological beliefs, including questions about their political and personal views on various matters, Politico reported. Applicants are asked about previous criminal activity, drug use, and are required to pledge an oath to "support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

In recent months, Trump has vowed to implement heavily criticized "extreme vetting" mechanisms designed to screen out immigration applicants who hold "any hostile attitude towards our country or its principles, or who believed sharia law should supplant American law." "Extreme vetting" was compared to Cold War-era U.S. immigration policies that were taken off the books because the U.S. government "realized the screening test contradicted the constitutional values the American government was theoretically using the screening test to protect." Experts also doubt the efficacy of such a protocol.

Claim: "Since 9/11, hundreds of immigrants and their children from high-risk regions have been implicated in terrorism and terrorist-related activity in the United States. Hundreds and hundreds."

Fact: There have been about 550 individuals implicated in terrorism-related charges since September 11, 2001, according to an analysis by Vox. Sixty-three percent of those individuals were born in America, and only eight were illegal immigrants. It's unclear where Trump received information about "hundreds and hundreds" of immigrants involved in extremist activity, but it appears to be false.


Claim: "Now, [Hillary Clinton] wants a 550 percent increase in Syrian refugees above the high numbers we already have. Altogether, her plan would bring in 620,000 refugees in her first term with no effective way to screen them or vet them. Law enforcement said there is no way."

Fact: It's true that Clinton previously recommended a 550 percent increase in the number of Syrian refugees the U.S. should admit. Last year, President Barack Obama called for 10,000 Syrian refugees to be admitted, and during an interview on CBS' Face the Nation, Clinton said "I would like to see us move from what is a good start with 10,000 to 65,000." As PolitiFact pointed out, that amounts to 550 percent increase.

But the secondary figure — that her plan would "bring in 620,000 refugees" by the end of her first term — is wildly speculative. It comes from a June 2016 report from the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, which makes a series of mathematical assumptions about Clinton's plan. You can read the report for yourself here.

Other countries, including Germany and Canada, have pledged to take in tens of hundreds more refugees than the U.S., and the humanitarian crisis rages on. Approximately 50 percent of Syria's population remains displaced, according to Amnesty International.

RELATED: Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson Explains the Screening Process For Refugees