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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Jihadist’s Immigration File Shows Vetting Steps were Missed by Immigration Officials, Congressman Says

Jihadist’s Immigration File Shows Vetting Steps were Missed by Immigration Officials, Congressman Says Homeland Security TodayThe immigration file of Tashfeen Malik, the jihadi wife of Syed Farook, both of whom carried out the worst act of terrorism on US soil since 9/11, indicates immigration officials did not thoroughly vet her application by demonstrating proof that she, a foreign national and, Malik, a US citizen had met in person as is required.

Instead, Malik’s immigration file doesn’t provide “sufficient evidence for this requirement,” said House Committee on the Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

“What is worse,” Goodlatte said today, “the immigration official reviewing Malik’s application requested more evidence to ensure the two met in person, but it was never provided and her visa was approved anyway.

Homeland Security Today first reported earlier this month that US counterterrorism and FBI officials had raised a host of questions about whether any “red flags” were raised by State Department officials in the processing of the Nonimmigrant Visa for a Fiancé Application Visa – known as a K-1 Visa – which Farook and his Pakistani wife, had to go through in order for Malik to be allowed into the United States pursuant to the K-1 Visa application and processing process.

Farook and Malik’s paper work for Malik to be given a K-1 Visa are being scrutinized by US counterterrorism officials in the US and Pakistan, federal officials told Homeland Security Today, noting that the examination of these records [was] being conducted with an eye on “discrepancies in the paperwork, the [required] personal interviews … etc.”

“We’re also looking at flaws in the [K-1] Visa process, and whether there are gaps or loopholes that need to be plugged,” one of the federal counterterrorism officials involved in the investigation told Homeland Security Today on background.

During the past decade, the Department of State has especially rigorously enforced the K-1 visa process in instances in which applicants are Russian, former USSR satellite nation citizens, like from Ukraine, or from certain south and central American nations.

“After reviewing Tashfeen Malik’s immigration file, it is clear that immigration officials did not thoroughly vet her application,” Goodlatte stated.

Goodlatte said, “Visa security is critical to national security, and it’s unacceptable that US Citizenship and Immigration Services did not fully vet Malik’s application and instead sloppily approved her visa. Since the Obama administration refuses to take the steps necessary to fully vet visa applicants, the House Judiciary Committee is working on a bill to strengthen visa processing security and protect national security. We plan to introduce this bill soon so that we can better protect Americans and our country.”

Below are key findings from Malik’s immigration file, according to Goodlatte:

  • One of the many requirements to obtain a K-1 fiancée visa is to show proof that the US citizen petitioner and foreign national have met in person. However, the immigration file contains only two pieces of information on this subject: (i) a statement by Syed Farook that he and Malik had been together in Saudi Arabia, and (ii) copies of pages from their passports, containing visas to enter Saudi Arabia and stamps in Arabic.
  • The immigration official reviewing Malik’s visa application requested that the passport stamps be translated into English to confirm that they were in Saudi Arabia at the same time, but Malik’s immigration file does not contain an English translation of the passport stamps.

At the request of House Judiciary Committee staff, a contractor with the Congressional Research Service (CRS) translatedthe passport stamps. Malik’s passport shows a Saudi Arabian entry stamp dated approximately June 4, 2013. Her exit stamp is partially illegible and the translator could not make out the month or day of her departure in 2013. Farook’s passport shows a Saudi Arabian entry stamp of October 1, 2013. The exit stamp was determined to be approximately October 20, 2013.

“However, even if Farook and Malik were in Saudi Arabia at the same time,” Goodlatte said, “this does not provide evidence that they met in person. Additionally, Malik’s Saudi Arabian visa was good for only 60 days, so this would cast doubt on the claim that the two were in Saudi Arabia at the same time. And even if Farook and Malik met in Saudi Arabia, there is insufficient evidence in the file for USCIS to have made that determination.”

“The United States is a nation of immigrants and we have a proud tradition of welcoming people from all over the world seeking opportunity and freedom. But since 9/11 we have learned that terrorists have and will continue to exploit our legal immigration system in order to cause harm to Americans and threaten our way of life,” Goodlatte said. “As terrorists continue to adapt and evolve in order to carry out their heinous plots, we have a duty to strengthen the security of our immigration system so that we keep bad actors out of the United States.”

Continuing, Goodlatte said, “As more details have been learned about the two terrorists responsible for the horrific attack in San Bernardino, it is becoming more apparent that more could have been done to vet Tashfeen Malik. She reportedly posted her radical views on social media prior to obtaining a visa, yet it seems that the Obama administration’s policies may have prevented officials from reviewing her account. The Obama administration’s lack of commonsense necessitates legislation to ensure proper vetting of visa applicants, including those applying for a K-1 visa, seeking to come to the United States.”

“The House Judiciary Committee is working on legislation that will require, among other things, in-person interviews for both the visa applicant and the sponsor at each step in the process,” Goodlatte  added. “Additionally, the bill will require that the agencies responsible for vetting the visa applicant check his or her employment and educational history as well as review open source information, such as social media accounts, to learn more about the person seeking to come to the United States. This legislation will be introduced soon and will go through regular order so that members can thoroughly review it and offer their input on the bill.”

“Every victim of a terrorist attack is a tragedy, but when learning from past failures we must first ask how likely K-1 visa users are to become terrorists. Depending on whether Malik’s deception on the K-1 is common or uncommon, the government’s responses should be very different,” Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, wrote in his Homeland Security Today report, Where Do K-1 ‘Fiance’ Visa Holders Come From?

According to Nowrasteh, “K-1 visas are the only nonimmigrant visas where applicants face the same security, biometric, rounds of interviews and background checks as applicants for green cards. Terrorists with any kind of paper trail or police record will not use this visa to enter the United States because of the extensive check. Thus, the K-1 deters almost all terrorist from trying to enter, explaining its 99.7 percent approval rate in 2014.”

Nowrasteh wrote that, “The K-1 visa is not the most commonly used way for foreign-born spouses to enter the United States. About 35,000 were issued in 2014, but many more green cards for the spouses of Americans were issued to fiancés. The K-1 is only used by couples in particular circumstances.”

Nowrasteh explained that, “The K-1 visa was created in 1970 to help returning American servicemen bring back their Vietnamese fiancés,” Nowrasteh wrote. “The previous bureaucratic hurdles, both imposed by the governments of South Vietnam and the United States, delayed the process. The freedom of Americans to marry whomever they wanted, even if they were foreigners, was so important Congress passed a law to expedite the process.”

Following the San Bernardino terrorist attack indicating there are gaps in the visa vetting process that need to be closed Goodlatte announced the House Judiciary Committee is working on legislation to reform visa security processing, including K-1 visas, and to ensure open source information is reviewed as part of the background check for visa applicants.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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