Illegal Immigrant Terrorism — Right-Wing Boogeyman Or Credible Threat?

By Viktor Marsai on March 4, 2024

Daily Caller, March 4, 2024

In mainstream academic discussion, the link between illegal immigration and security is said to be merely a social construct. As stated by the authors of the well-known book “The Age of Migration,” there has been a post-Cold War trend of associating migration with security issues, a process referred to as “securitization.” It is claimed that this often occurs in the absence of a genuine threat, leading politicians to create an imagined threat. The contention is that labeling migrants as potential “terrorists” incites fear and a sense of danger.

However, when examining available data and information, it’s clear that the security risk posed by illegal immigration is more than just a political tactic or a social construct. Terrorist groups are exploiting the movement of people into the U.S. and Europe to infiltrate these societies and carry out very real terrorist attacks. This remains a concern even though the vast majority of these immigrants have no ties to extremist organizations. Underestimating the security challenges posed by illegal mass immigration is just as damaging as overstating the issue.

As Mark Krikorian points out in his book “A New Case Against Immigration,” all the terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks had committed some kind of immigration fraud. There are many examples of the link between terrorism and immigration since 9/11 too. For instance, in the fiscal year 2023, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) caught 736 people listed on the Terrorist Screening Data Set (TSDS).

Other extremists have been caught on their way to the U.S. as well. In February 2023, Lutrnan Warsame Farah, the oldest son of a top leader of Al-Shabaab, a recognized Somali terrorist group, was arrested in Costa Rica. Farah, who was using fake identities and someone else’s Swedish passport, was caught with the help of the FBI. A few months later, in November, another Somali man linked to Al-Shabaab, Ali Abdinuur Ahmed, was detained in a migrant center in Costa Rica, just 10 kilometers from the Panama border. This center is a common stop for illegal immigrants traveling through the notorious Darien Gap on their way to the U.S.

The link between illegal immigration and terrorism isn’t just an American issue; it’s also present in Europe. For example, at the end of 2022, Serbian police arrested an Afghan army general and a sniper who were wanted by France on terrorism charges. The Serbian police made these arrests at a makeshift camp near Subotica, close to the Hungarian border. They found 109 illegal migrants there, 29 of whom were of particular security interest.

In October 2023, a report from the Hungarian National Information Centre revealed that the Taliban’s intelligence service was trying to take control of Afghan human-smuggling groups in the Vojvodina region of Serbia, near the Hungarian border. The report identified two Afghan groups, named 40-059 and 313 (the latter referencing the Taliban’s Badri 313 “elite” brigade), as controlling most of the people-smuggling in Northern Serbia. The 40-059 group was even actively posting propaganda videos on TikTok, showing off their combat skills in a style similar to extremist groups like ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and Hamas. Additionally, an investigation by Balkan Insight brought attention to the fact that organized criminal networks in Northern Serbia were arming themselves, often with weapons provided by Albanian criminal groups from Kosovo and Albania.

Recent terrorist attacks in Europe, carried out by illegal immigrants, show that there is indeed a link between immigration and terrorism. From the stabbings in Nice in 2020 to the Brussels shooting in 2023, there have been many successful and thwarted terrorist plots involving illegal immigrants in recent years.

It’s true that only a tiny fraction of all new arrivals are linked to extremist groups or ideologies. In the U.S., for example, only 0.0083 percent of all encounters were processed through the Terrorist Screening Data Set (TSDS). In Europe, given its closer proximity to terrorist hotspots in the Middle East and Africa, this percentage might be a bit higher. Compared to the total number of illegal arrivals, it’s still a small proportion, but we must remember that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by only 19 terrorists. In Europe, most recent attacks have been carried out by lone wolves, but these individuals have still caused significant harm and damage.

Additionally, the statistics only include extremists who have been caught and identified by authorities. There are many individuals with terrorist ties who haven’t yet been recorded on any list. We also can’t overlook the large number of ‘got-aways’ – those who have entered the U.S. and Europe without any screening. Since fiscal year 2021, at least 1.7 million illegal immigrants have evaded capture and disappeared somewhere in the U.S. without undergoing any security checks.

The examples I’ve mentioned show that the presence of extremists among illegal immigrants is not just a theoretical concept, but a real threat. This is similar to the actual terrorist attacks that have killed hundreds in North America and Europe over the past decade. So, instead of just focusing on academic theories like “securitization” and criticizing politicians for “demonizing immigrants,” it’s important to step away from theoretical discussions and confront the reality of the situation. Scholars need to engage in a careful and thorough debate about the link between immigration and terrorism. The goal should be to navigate a middle path between two extremes: overemphasizing the threat on one hand, and on the other, ignoring or completely denying it.