Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism – To understand how big a threat terrorism is and the potential hazard some immigrants and other foreign‐born individuals pose to the United States, the Cato Institute released a new paper , Terrorism and Immigration: A Risk Analysis, 1975–2022. The report analyzes the number of foreign‐born terrorists, the murders they committed in their attacks, and other information about them for 1975–2022. This new Cato policy analysis is an update of earlier papers on the topic.
In sum, the report shows that the chance of being killed by a foreign‐born terrorist in the U.S. is about 1 in 4.3 million per year, a very low‐probability event. For comparison, the annual chance of being the victim of a regular criminal homicide in the U.S. is 1 in 20,134, a much higher probability.
Yet another theory says Americans see the victims of terrorism as more worthy of protection than the victims of normal criminal homicide and other crimes, suggesting that the government should do more to prevent those victims from being harmed.
Our analysis shows that between 1975 and 2022 some 219 foreign‐born terrorists planned, attempted, or carried out attacks that ultimately killed 3,046 people (Table 1). They also injured 17,077 people, with a chance of being injured of about 1 in 774,000 per year (Table 2). For murders committed during terrorist attacks, 98 percent occurred during 9/11. In terms of injuries, 87 percent occurred on 9/11.
Zero Americans were killed in domestic attacks committed by foreign‐born terrorists in 30 of the 48 examined years. In 29 of the 48 years covered by the new Cato paper, zero Americans were injured in attacks committed by foreign‐born terrorists. Islamists were responsible for 99.4 percent of the murders in foreign‐born terrorist attacks and 95 percent of the injuries, followed by a small number of terrorists inspired by right‐wing ideologies and foreign nationalist ideologies. Zero people were killed by terrorists who entered as illegal immigrants.
The federal government should continue to screen foreign‐born terrorists from the flow of people seeking to enter the United States, as it should continue to filter out criminals, spies, and other security threats. However, the government should allocate resources to this endeavor using a cost‐benefit test and not pass broad restrictions on immigrants to allegedly reduce the cost of terrorism. Foreign‐born terrorism is a hazard to the lives and property of Americans. But it is a hazard that can be addressed by not expending further resources and by cutting some existing ones.