There are any number of reasons the White House’s recent push to bar immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations smacked of poor, regressive policy. Not only was the executive order, pivoting off of President Donald Trump’s pledge of a “Muslim ban,” blocked by multiple court rulings, but the attempt to bar immigrants from nations like Syria and Iraq — including children and refugees alike — dealt America’s soft power its most significant body-blow since Trump’s election.
Further, as a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security made plain, the White House’s attempt to target individuals from states like Sudan and Iran was not only an exercise in unconstitutionality, but it was an abject misallocation of resources. The DHS’s intelligence report, reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, concluded that “country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity.” All told, the WSJ report added, “analysts found 82 individuals who were ‘primarily’ based in the U.S. who had either died trying to engage in terrorism or were convicted on charges. Of those, ‘slightly more than half’ were native born U.S. citizens, the report found.”
Moreover, the report continued, only two of the nations Trump’s executive order cited — Iraq and Somalia — were among the top countries whose nationals engaged in terrorism-related activities in the United States. Instead, those states that produced the highest number of nationals tied to terrorism in the United States over the past six years included Pakistan, Bangladesh, Cuba, Ethiopia, and Uzbekistan.
For Central Asia-watchers, the inclusion of Uzbekistan on the list signifies just how limited foreign nationals’ attempts at terrorism on American soil have been since 2011. (To say nothing of the fact that two of the states, Ethiopia and Cuba, are Christian-majority states.) That’s not to deny that Uzbekistani nationals have threatened to kill or maim Americans on American soil; rather, these attempts have been sufficiently ham-handed — and bizarre — that the inclusion of Uzbekistan on the DHS’s list undercuts the Trump administration’s executive order that much more.
Crossroads Asia was able to identify only a handful of Uzbekistani nationals tied to terrorist-related activities in the United States over the past few years — most notably, when a pair of Uzbekistani nationals were tied to threats to bomb Coney Island and assassinate then-President Barack Obama on behalf of Islamic State. More recently, a 25-year-old Uzbekistani national pleaded not guilty to making a terrorist threat following his arrest for aiming a pellet gun at passing cars in Missouri. (He didn’t fire any shots.)
In Idaho, meanwhile, a 32-year-old refugee, Fazliddin Kurbanov, was sentenced last year to 25 years in prison for planning attacks on military bases or public transportation. (Kurbanov was a Christian when he entered the United States as a refugee, and later converted to Islam.) Another Uzbekistani is currently serving 15 years for threatening to assassinate Obama, while two others are currently being held stemming from a supposed plot involving providing material support to a group called the Islamic Jihad Union — a case that has seen allegations of U.S. government surveillance of one of the nationals and his defense teams.
All told, none of the terrorism cases relating to Uzbekistani nationals on American soil have seen any casualties. Indeed, since 1975, a total of only three refugees have conducted fatal terrorist attacks in the United States — all of which came in the 1970s, and all of which came at the hands of Cuban nationals. Accurate data certainly hasn’t stopped — or even persuaded — Trump over the first five weeks of his presidency, and there’s no reason to think he’ll stall his attempt to institute a “Muslim ban.” Still, it’s worth keeping a bit of perspective on the threat foreign nationals within the United States actually pose, especially when the majority of those tied to terrorism on U.S. soil over the past six years are natural-born Americans.