Foreign-born terrorism on U.S. soil is a low-probability event that imposes high costs on its victims, despite relatively small risks, and low costs on Americans as a whole. From 1975 through 2017, the average chance of dying in an attack committed by a foreign-born terrorist on U.S. soil was 1 in 3,808,374 a year, and the chance of being injured was about 1 in 678,399. For 27 of those 43 years, no people were killed on U.S. soil in terrorist attacks committed by foreign-born terrorists. In 27 years, most of which overlap with the years in which no one was killed, no people were injured on U.S. soil in terrorist attacks committed by foreign-born terrorists. During the same period, native-born terrorists murdered 413 people and injured 1,346 in attacks on U.S. soil.
Foreign-born terrorism has been a more serious hazard to American life, liberty, and private property than native-born terrorism from 1975 through 2017. But foreign-born terrorism is a manageable threat given the huge economic benefits of immigration and the relatively smaller costs of terrorism. Unknown terrorists murdered 68 people during that time. The U.S. government should continue to devote resources to screening immigrants and foreigners for terrorism and other threats, but large policy changes like an immigration or tourist moratorium would impose far greater costs than benefits.
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