Ahmad Khan Rahami was arrested on Sept. 20 for setting off several bombs; both Manhattan and Jersey shore were targets.
The New York Times, in their piece “Ahmad Khan Rahama Is Arrested in Manhattan and New Jersey Bombings” details how the Muslim man was inspired by Osama Bin laden.
Investigators say that his bombs were well-constructed to the point that he probably learned from an expert. Ahmad had also been to Pakistan multiple times.
Nobody died, but several were injured, including Rahami himself, when he had a shootout with the police. As of right now, investigators have not determined there to be a larger, related terrorist network.
When something like this happens, everyone wants to know if it could have been prevented.
According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 60 percent of Americans are against taking in Syrian refugees.
On Sept. 16, presidential hopeful Donald Trump declared, “These attacks and many others were made possible because of our extremely open immigration system, which fails to properly vet and screen the individuals or families coming into our country.”
He went on to condemn plans for taking in more Syrian refugees. You may be thinking, what does the current refugee crisis in the Middle East have to do with Mr. Rahami? The answer is not much, it seems.
According to NBC News, Rahami is an Afghan-American who came to live in the states and was naturalized years after his father came here seeking asylum.
At the moment, the evidence indicates that Rahami was radicalized after already being in the country for a while; there were no prior red flags and his father, who originally sought asylum, wasn’t involved in any of the bombings.
So this particular instance is less about letting in refugees and asylum-seekers and more about letting in Muslims at all.
According to a post from the Washington Post’s Fact Checker, nothing in the anti-terrorism plans of either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton would have prevented this from happening.
Trump has suggested enacting exclusionary immigration policies that would target people on the basis of their Islamic faith, but this doesn’t account for instances of homegrown terrorism such as the New York and New Jersey bombings. There are millions of Muslims living here already and people of any ethnicity are potential converts.
Clinton wants to work with Muslim communities to build trust and vet refugees for being potentially dangerous. According to Politifact.com, the vetting process for refugees entering our country takes anywhere from eighteen months to a year.
Still, Mr. Rahami did not enter the country this way, and even if he did, he would still have met the qualifications. He was 7 years old when he came here, and was later naturalized.
So what do we do? I think that both plans would be effective in their own ways. Clinton’s plan would sacrifice a degree of safety for the principle that we should help refugees. Trump’s plan would sacrifice a principle for a degree of safety.
But this entire debate over immigration concerns enemies from the outside. Homegrown terrorism is a reality, and we cannot keep blaming it on the refugee crisis.
Anyone, regardless of their race or country of origin, can become a radicalized Islamic terrorist. Clinton has talked some about this, wanting to get Muslim communities to police themselves in a way.
Lots of factors change people. Sometimes they become violent and obsessive. We should never stop trying to protect ourselves, but I can’t help but feel that this expectation of our leaders to totally rid America of violent extremism is setting ourselves up for disappointment.