GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz and his Senate colleague Jeff Sessions of Alabama have renewed a standing request to the Department of Homeland Security for information about the immigration history of individuals in the U.S. legally who have been accused of taking part in or supporting acts of “Islamic terrorism.” The history they are requesting, even in the case of suspects who are natural born U.S. citizens, extends to suspects’ parents.
Further, the two senators request that if the parents in question are citizens also, that DHS additionally distinguish them by identifying whether they are natural-born citizens or are naturalized citizens who emigrated from another country.
“The American people are entitled to information on the immigration history of terrorists seeking to harm them,” Cruz and Sessions wrote.
“The resources spent every year investigating the countless number of immigrant terrorist suspects in the United States are astronomical,” they said. “And yet, as this costly and dangerous status quo continues, the U.S. continues to admit approximately 680,000 migrants from Muslim countries every five years.”
Cruz is running in a GOP presidential primary in which current frontrunner Donald Trump’s politically charged comments about immigrants – from calling them rapists and murderers to promising to order mass deportations and to build a massive wall on the southern border – have made a tough stance on immigration essential.
Sessions, for his part, is a long-time warrior against illegal immigration who had advocated for more stringent enforcement of existing laws as well as new measures to combat the inflow of undocumented immigrants.
The two senators have kept a running tally of individuals who have, as they put it, been “identified as having an affiliation with Islamic terrorism” or “implicated in Islamic terrorism in some manner” that extends back to early 2014. The list, now 113 names in length, includes numerous individuals who have been charged but not yet convicted of illegal activities ranging from making false statements to law enforcement officials to attempted use of weapons of mass destruction.
“Of these 113 individuals, at least 14 were initially admitted to the United States as refugees,” the senators write. “Many more came through other immigration programs. A number of immigrant terrorists were even approved for citizenship. Others are the U.S.-born children of foreign migrants whose presence in the country would not be possible but for the immigration of their parents.”
The focus on the immigration status of the parents of natural-born citizens was particularly troubling to some in the Muslim community.
“It just seems to be another part of the Republican assault on anything to do with Islam and Muslims and the demonization of Muslims that we see on a daily basis coming from Republican Party,” said Ibrahim Hooper, the national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“I’m not exactly sure what you would need to know someone’s parentage for, unless you were going to punish their parents somehow for what their children have done,” Hooper said. “Are they going to examine the heritage of all the white supremacists and right wing terrorists in the country?”
Other than the constitutional requirement that only a natural-born U.S. citizen can be elected president, U.S. law makes no distinction between natural-born and naturalized citizens.
Asked for clarification of the reason for requesting that data, Sen. Session’s staff said that it would be used to inform future decision-making about immigration policy.