Im­mi­grants’ chil­dren lured to ter­ror

Iden­tity of­ten dif­fi­cult for 2nd gen­er­a­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

While im­mi­grants draw much of the at­ten­tion, it’s their chil­dren who are prov­ing to be the most fruit­ful re­cruit­ing ground for rad­i­cal ji­had in the U.S., ac­count­ing for at least half of the deadly at­tacks over the past decade.

The lat­est in­stance of the sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion ter­ror­ist syndrome played out in Or­lando, Florida, over the week­end when Omar Ma­teen, son of im­mi­grants from Afghanistan, went on a ji­had-in­spired ram­page, killing 49 peo­ple and wound­ing 53 oth­ers in the worst mass shoot­ing in U.S. his­tory.

Au­thor­i­ties said Ma­teen had flirted with other ter­ror­ist groups but de­clared his al­le­giance to the Is­lamic State on Sun­day morn­ing as he be­gan his hor­rific spree.

He fol­lows in the foot­steps of Syed Rizwan Fa­rook, one of the San Bernardino, Cal­i­for­nia, ter­ror­ists who was the son of Pak­ista­nis; Nadir Soofi, one of two men who at­tacked a draw­ing com­pe­ti­tion in Gar­land, Texas, last year and whose fa­ther was from Pak­istan; and then-Maj. Ni­dal Has­san, the child of Pales­tinian im­mi­grants whose shoot­ing ram­page at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 set off the mod­ern round of deadly lone-wolf at­tacks.

In other cases, at­tack­ers were im­mi­grants brought to the U.S. as young chil­dren. They grew up in the U.S. but were be­sieged by ques­tions of iden­tity.

“His­tor­i­cally, the ‘high stress’ gen­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can im­mi­grants has been sec­ond gen­er­a­tion,” said for­mer CIA Direc­tor Michael V. Hay­den. “Mom and Pop can rely on the cul­ture of where they came from. Their grand­chil­dren will be (more or less) thor­oughly Amer­i­can. The gen­er­a­tion in be­tween, though, is an­chored nei­ther in the old or in the new. They of­ten are search­ing for self or iden­tity be­yond self.”

The Sept. 11, 2001, hi­jack­ers were all for­eign­ers who gained en­try to the U.S. on visas, spark­ing a heated and still-run­ning de­bate over the role of bor­ders in try­ing to keep out wouldbe at­tack­ers.

But the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion killers pose a dif­fer­ent is­sue: how to keep chil­dren of im­mi­grants from aban­don­ing the pre­cepts of their adopted home.

Pre­sump­tive Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump said Mon­day that the is­sues are one and the same.

“The bot­tom line is that the only rea­son the killer was in Amer­ica in the first place was be­cause we al­lowed his fam­ily to come here. That is a fact, and it’s a fact we need to talk about,” Mr. Trump said in a speech in New Hamp­shire.

He re­vised his call for a tem­po­rary ban on ad­mit­ting Mus­lims to the U.S., say­ing it would ap­ply only to trav­el­ers from re­gions con­nected to ter­ror­ism. He said the ban would end once the U.S. has a bet­ter idea of who is com­ing and what val­ues they hold.

Mr. Trump said im­mi­grants from Afghanistan — the home of Ma­teen’s par­ents — over­whelm­ingly “sup­port op­pres­sive Sharia law,” which he said is anath­ema to Amer­i­can val­ues of di­ver­sity. In­deed, Ma­teen’s fa­ther sug­gested that the killer may have been set off by hav­ing seen two men kiss­ing. Ma­teen’s mas­sacre tar­geted a gay night­club.

But some re­searchers sug­gest the link to re­li­gion is less im­por­tant than the marginal­iza­tion im­mi­grants and first-gen­er­a­tion Amer­i­cans may feel. In a study last year funded by the Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment, re­searchers said those who felt in­stances of dis­crim­i­na­tion, per­sonal shame or hu­mil­i­a­tion had higher propen­sity to­ward rad­i­cal­iza­tion.

Some pol­i­cy­mak­ers bris­tle at con­nect­ing ter­ror­ist at­tacks to im­mi­gra­tion, and it’s dif­fi­cult to know the out­lines of the con­nec­tion.

Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, Alabama Repub­li­can, and Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Repub­li­can, have re­peat­edly asked the Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment for im­mi­gra­tion in­for­ma­tion on those im­pli­cated in re­cent ter­ror­ist plots, but they said they have yet to get a “sub­stan­tive” re­sponse.

That leaves the pub­lic blind, Mr. Ses­sions said in a state­ment Mon­day.

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