Report: Very Few Immigration Cases Related to Terrorism

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Of the more than 800,000 individuals whom the Department of Homeland Security charged in the immigration courts in the past three years, only 12 have been accused of terrorism-related crimes, according to a new report out today from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).

An additional 114 cases were categorized as "national security" cases, according to TRAC's analysis of millions of records, many obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The report paints these statistics in stark relief to the stated mission of several of the agencies within Homeland Security, which list terrorism and security as their primary concerns. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for example, a post-9/11 agency charged with investigating immigration violations, describes its responsibility as being to "enforce our immigration and customs laws and to protect the United States against terrorist attacks.")

The report acknowledges that, because deportation is the most severe punishment meted out by the immigration courts, prosecutors sometimes charge suspects with the least-severe offense for which deportation is possible, to expedite the case and ensure the greatest chance of conviction. Its conclusion, however, remains blunt:

"Despite the constant official talk by ICE officials about its war on terrorism campaign, the data on national security and terrorism charges clearly show declining long-term trends back to 1992," it states. "The incidents of 9/11/2001 and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security appear to have had little discernible impact on these trends."