Collateral Damage

President Trump’s critics love to hammer him over his “xenophobic” tendencies. They claim his efforts to control the number of questionable refugees and illegal immigrants entering the country are the products of his bigotry and hate. When confronted with evidence of criminal or terrorist activity within some of these groups, they claim the status of a person’s residency is immaterial.  In other cases, they claim the risks to the public from refugees or illegal immigrants is so low as to be insignificant. In some ways there is validity to their arguments, but there are times when the worst misrepresentations are based on facts.

Consider the example floating around social media and the news using the number 0.00003. This reportedly illustrates how unlikely it is that someone in the United States will be killed by a foreign terrorist. In other words, as you read this the chance that a foreign terrorist will kill you, or anyone else this year, is 0.00003 percent. The implication is that anyone worried about refugees from the middle east is a xenophobe and alarmist. After all, one is much more likely to be killed by a shark than a middle eastern terrorist.

It would be possible to quibble with the data used to develop the 0.00003 number. In fact, some so-called fact checking groups pointed out some misrepresentations made by those using this figure or related data. Their findings were, in the terms of such groups, that the information was used in ways that made it a mixture of true and false. Of course, the false aspects were inconsequential. Therefore, the concerns of people opposed to unfettered immigration were unfounded.

OneOldCop tends to agree with the fact-checkers’ analysis. One’s chance of dying at the hands of a criminal in any major city is much higher than one’s chance of being killed by a jihadist. Likewise, one is more likely to be killed crossing the street in his or her hometown than being killed by an ISIS operative hiding among the thousands of people fleeing Syria. Additionally, the chances a fourteen-year-old school girl will be sexually assaulted by one of her native-born classmates are just as likely as her being assaulted by a classmate who is in the country illegally.

The foregoing notwithstanding there is a bit of a difference if one is killed by a terrorist or assaulted by someone who entered the country illegally when compared to victims of citizens. The refugee, immigrant or whatever is here because this country allowed the person to be here to commit the crime.1 Whether advocates like it or not, that is a difference.

Any assault or killing is unacceptable. Society should do everything it can to prevent those crimes or punish offenders, without regard to their citizenship or other status. Still, the idea the crimes are equivalent is ludicrous. To OneOldCop that makes as much sense as saying a vehicular homicide committed by a first time DWI is the same as one committed by someone convicted of DWI multiple times. Not only does OneOldCop believe there is a difference, it is likely many who oppose controls on immigration would not hesitate to support stricter sanctions for those who continuously put themselves and others at risk by driving drunk.2

If this were a debate, a forum or another discussion format we could engage in a good bit of give and take at this point. The problem is we would be discussing the wrong point. The foregoing was offered simply to lay the groundwork for the title of this piece.
The one thing no one discusses or quotes when tossing the 0.0003 or other terms around is the conclusion of the study from which much of this is taken. The CATO Institute is often quoted as the source of this data, and they are at least one source. What is never mentioned is the conclusion reached in the study. When this writer read the study, one point stood out starkly.

The conclusion of the institute’s 2016 study of this issue begins, “Foreign-born terrorism on U.S. soil is a low probability event that imposes high costs on its victims despite relatively small risks and low costs on Americans as a whole.”3 The conclusion goes on to speak to the economic benefit of immigration and how the risk is manageable given the overall benefit to the economy.

In case you do not translate academic jargon easily, the CATO Institute is saying a certain level of collateral damage is acceptable for economic reasons. Some politicians say the same thing using different words, and some of the bleeding hearts out there think the handful of people killed by foreign terrorists to date are the price we must pay to live up to our American values.

How does it feel to be expendable?


  1. For the nit-pickers out there, as used here the term ‘allowed’ means failed to prevent illegal entry, failed to deport, allowed entry without proper vetting or failed to monitor potential threats properly and take appropriate action.
  2.  Let me save you an email. I know some critics will claim that is a strawman, or some other logical fallacy, but the truth is most of the people making such claims are guilty of thinking illogically.
  3.  Emphasis added.

© OneOldCop – 2017

About S. E. Jackson

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