San Bernardino

Secret Policy to Ignore Social Media? Not So Fast

There is a supposed “secret policy” that prevented consular and immigration officers from checking Tashfeen Malik’s social media accounts where she wrote about jihad (possibly under a pseudonym or in personal messages).  If her statements were discovered then she would have been denied a visa, preventing the atrocity.  This is getting a lot of attention on blogs and Secretary Jeh Johnson responded by saying that there are certain limits that probably apply to personal messages although he’s unclear. 

After following this controversy, I heard from six different immigration attorneys that there is no such secret policy and their clients’ routinely have their social media accounts checked by immigration officials – or at least have heard of it happening. 

Terrorism Does Not Justify Immigration Moratorium

Some prominent conservatives like Larry Kudlow, David Bossie, and Ann Coulter have now called for a complete moratorium on immigration because of the threat of Islamic terrorism.  However, they all focus on the benefits and neglect the costs of such a policy.  An immigration moratorium will cost the U.S. economy about $200 billion annually on net, even if it is successful at significantly reducing terrorism.

Costs of Terrorism and the Benefits of an Immigration Moratorium

According to the New America Foundation, jihadists have killed 45 Americans on U.S. soil since 9/11.  John Mueller estimates that each murder by jihadists costs about $15 million – double that of other deaths.  That means the cost of jihadist terrorism on American soil, just taking in to account the loss of life, is about $50 million a year since 9/11.  Let’s double that to $100 million to try and take account of other costs, excluding counter-terrorism spending. 

Under the most pessimistic assumptions, 73 percent of convicted terrorists in the decade after 9/11 were foreign-born.  Assuming that those 73 percent of immigrant terrorists are responsible for 73 percent of the jihadist murders since 9/11, their annual cost is $73 million.  At best, assuming there are no immigrant terrorists currently in the United States, the benefits of reducing terrorism via an immigration moratorium are $73 million annually.       

Costs of a Moratorium

Of course, measuring just the benefits of a moratorium is only half of the relevant calculation.  We must also estimate the economic costs of a moratorium on all future immigration.  Professor Benjamin Powell of Texas Tech University estimated the economic costs of a total immigration moratorium at $229 billion annually – $193 billion in rent-seeking costs and an additional loss of the conservatively estimated $36 billion annual immigration surplus.  Powell’s estimate is remarkably similar to Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda’s related estimate that removing 11 million unauthorized immigrants would lower GDP over a ten period by $2.6 trillion (Powell’s ten-year cost is $2.3 trillion).

Where Do K-1 Visa Holders Come From?

Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik were killed last week in a gun battle with police after they committed a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.  Malik entered the U.S. on a K-1 visa, known as the fiancé visa, accompanied by Farook.  Their attack is the first perpetrated by somebody on the K-1 visa - igniting a debate over increasing visa security.   

The government issued approximately 262,162 K-1 visas from 2005 to 2013 – 3177 or 1.21 percent of the total to Pakistani citizens. 

Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) SECURE Act identifies 34 countries as particularly terror-prone.  There were 32,363 K-1 visa, 12.34 percent of the total, issued to citizens from those countries from 2005 to 2013. 

The top ten countries for sending fiancés are the Philippines (17.34%), China (6.45%), Vietnam (5.56%), Mexico (4.99%), Colombia (3.77%), Russia (3.14%), Dominican Republic (3.12%), United Kingdom (3.12%), Thailand (2.72%), and Canada (2.67%).  Those top ten countries are responsible for 52.77 percent of all K-1 visas issued from 2005 to 2013.  Russia is the only country in the top ten that Senator Paul considers a risk.  Pakistan is number 23.

San Bernardino Shooting Doesn’t Justify Tightening K-1 Visa

One of the rampage killers in the recent mass-shooting in San Bernardino, California entered on the K-1 visa for fiancés with the intent of marrying her fellow shooter Syed Farook – an American citizen.  From 1989 to 2014, the government issued 512,164 K-1 visas.  According to David North of the restrictionist Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), this is the first potential terrorist to enter the United States on a K-1 visa.

One potential terrorist out of 512,164 K-1 visas issued is not a good reason to tighten that visa’s already rigorous application process. 

In 2015 there have been four mass shooting according to Mother Jones with 37 fatalities and 33 injuries.  Your chance of being killed in a mass shooting in the United States in 2015 is one in 8,617,758.  Your chance of chance of being injured in a mass shooting this year so far is one in 9,662,335.  Your chance of being killed or injured in a mass shooting is one in 4,555,101.       

Your chance of being killed by a foreign-born terrorist in 2015 (so far) is one in 16,781,950, your chance of being wounded is one in 13,863,350, and your chance of being killed or wounded is one in 7,591,835, assuming the broadest possible definition of terrorism committed by an immigrant (Dylan Roof is was born in the United States) on U.S. soil. 

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