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Certain Muslim immigrants should be under long-term surveillance, a DHS draft report urges

A group observes the Islamic midday prayer outside the White House on Jan. 27 during a rally on the first anniversary of the Trump administration’s first partial travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

A recent draft report by the Department of Homeland Security urges authorities to conduct long-term surveillance of Sunni Muslim immigrants with “at-risk” demographic profiles.

The report, compiled in January for U.S. Customs and Border Protection acting commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan and published Monday by Foreign Policy magazine, looks at the people behind 25 terrorist attacks in the United States from October 2001 to December 2017 and, based on their demographics, recommends Muslim immigrants be monitored on a “long-term basis.”

In examining the national origin and religious background of the people behind these attacks, the report suggests that there is “great value for the United States Government in dedicating resources to continuously evaluate persons of interest” beyond their initial screenings at ports of entry.

The surveillance policies — should they go into effect — would bolster the Trump administration’s goal of limiting immigration from Muslim-majority countries. Trump’s travel ban issued last fall, for example, blocked travelers to the United States from eight countries — six of which have Muslim majorities. Last week the administration said it would continue accepting refugees from Muslim-majority nations but would enforce stricter screening procedures to stamp out potential extremists.

The draft report follows a government report on Jan. 16 stating that three-quarters of those convicted of terrorism-related charges between 2001 and 2016 were foreign-born. The report, released by DHS and the Department of Justice, was applauded by President Trump, who in a series of tweets cited the report and said “we need to keep America safe.”

Other data maintained by U.S. attorneys, however, shows that there have been 1,441 federal indictments for domestic-terrorism-related offenses since 2001, compared with 736 international-terrorism-related offenses.

Nihad Awad, the national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the draft report’s recommendations called for “unconstitutional profiling” based solely on religious and ethnic stereotyping.

“It ignores the main extremist threat to our nation — that of violence committed by white supremacists — and politicizes an important issue in a transparent attempt to make national law-enforcement policy conform to the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant and Islamophobic agenda,” Awad said in a statement.

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A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman in a statement called the report a “literal first draft” that did not reflect a “large number of substantive comments and revisions” that have since been made to it.

“In fact, most of the content of [concern] highlighted in reporting was dropped in later drafts and is no longer reflected in the current version of the document,” the statement read.

David Sterman, a policy analyst at the liberal-leaning think tank New America, said he is concerned about the disconnect between the findings of the draft report — such as how most of the people behind the terrorist attacks were living in the United States for a long period of time — and its conclusion that Sunni Muslim immigrants should be tracked on a long-term basis.

“[The problem] isn’t that they collected this data. It’s that the data that underlies it has been connected to a set of interpretations and conclusions . . . that can’t be drawn from how this report was structured,” he said.

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