WASHINGTON (CN) – Capping off a whirlwind first week of executive action, President Donald signed an order Friday to dramatically reduce refugee admissions and ban visas for travelers from "high-risk," Muslim-majority countries.
“We don't want them here,” Trump said of radical Islamic terrorists. “We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people.”
Trump made the remarks this afternoon following a ceremonial swearing-in of Defense Secretary James Mattis.
“We will never forget the lessons of 9/11, nor the heroes that lost their lives at the Pentagon,” the president said.
A final copy of the executive order is not yet available, but a draft of the document said the visa ban would target Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.
The order halts the admission of Syrian refugees indefinitely; suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days; reduces 2017 refugee admissions by 60,000; and halts the issuance of visas from countries that the United States deems as having inadequate security screening.
"This is a response to fear about Syrian refugees committing terrorist attacks on U.S. soil," said Alex Nowrasteh, of the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute, in a phone interview.
"There has not been a terrorist attack committed by a refugee on U.S. soil since the late 1970s," he added.
Just 20 refugees since 1975 have been convicted of attempting or carrying out a terror attack on U.S. soil.
“And none of those people who committed those attacks are Syrians - not one," Nowrasteh said. "Whatever effect or intent this executive order has, it's not going to do much at all for national security," he added.
Nowrasteh notes that no refugee attack has killed Americans since the 1970s, which saw three U.S. fatalities.
"Your annual chance of dying in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee on U.S. soil is 1 in 3.6 billion a year,” Nowrasteh said. “That is how safe the refugee program is in terms of terrorism."
According to the draft executive order: "Hundreds of foreign born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes since September 11, 2001, including foreign nationals who entered the United States after claiming asylum; after receiving visitor, student, or employment visas; or through the U.S. refugee resettlement program."
Data shows that the threat is not as great as Trump suggests, however, particularly in terms of terror attacks committed on U.S. soil from the seven proposed visa ban countries.
"There have been 17 convictions or attempted terrorist attacks on U.S. soil from people in these countries, but none of them have been successful and many of them were decades ago,” Nowrasteh said.
Moreover, none of the 9/11 hijackers hailed from the targeted countries. Fifteen were from Saudi Arabia, two came from the United Arab Emirates, along with one each from Egypt and Lebanon.