PORTLAND, Ore. – President Trump cited a plot to bomb Portland’s Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in 2010 as an example of foreign threats in his new executive order banning immigrants from six predominantly-Muslim countries.
As The Oregonian reported, Trump’s new travel ban cites Mohamed Mohamud as an example of immigrants and refugees threatening national security.
Dwight Holton, the former U.S. Attorney for Oregon who prosecuted Mohamud, called the president’s reference to the case “very disturbing.” Holton said Mohamud’s status as a Somali refugee had nothing to do with the case. In an interview with Patch.com, Holton said the Somali refugee community was actuallly very helpful in investigating the case.
“I’m concerned that this is a distraction from the real work to figure out where the threats are actually coming from,” Holton said.
Mohamud was brought to the United States as a child refugee from Somalia, one of the six banned countries, and later became a U.S. citizen. When he was 19, Mohamud planned to set off a bomb during Portland’s annual tree-lighting ceremony at Pioneer Square Courthouse, where thousands were in attendance.
His plot was foiled when undercover FBI agents posing as al-Qaida recruiters supplied him with a fake bomb. He was arrested Nov. 26, 2010, after pressing a keypad button on a cellphone that he believed would trigger the bomb. In 2014, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
The section of the executive order referencing Mohamud reads:
Recent history shows that some of those who have entered the United States through our immigration system have proved to be threats to our national security. Since 2001, hundreds of persons born abroad have been convicted of terrorism-related crimes in the United States. They have included not just persons who came here legally on visas but also individuals who first entered the country as refugees. For example, in January 2013, two Iraqi nationals admitted to the United States as refugees in 2009 were sentenced to 40 years and to life in prison, respectively, for multiple terrorism-related offenses. And in October 2014, a native of Somalia who had been brought to the United States as a child refugee and later became a naturalized United States citizen was sentenced to 30 years in prison for attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction as part of a plot to detonate a bomb at a crowded Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. The Attorney General has reported to me that more than 300 persons who entered the United States as refugees are currently the subjects of counterterrorism investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Trump’s new travel ban blocks travel to the United States for 90 days from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen to those without previously approved visas or green cards. It also shuts down the U.S. refugee program for 120 days, blocking refugees not already approved for travel.