The Egyptian national who killed two people and wounded three others at an El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport last week would not have been in the U.S. legally were it not for an amnesty exemption favored for renewal by the Bush administration and congressional leaders.
Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, 41, was killed by an El Al security guard after he fired more than 10 shots from a semi-automatic pistol in a July 4 attack at LAX. Subsequent reports said Hadayet was a legal resident in the U.S. because his wife had received an immigration visa through the Department of State’s Diversity Lottery Program in 1997.
But according to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., Hadayet was given permanent resident status in the U.S. under the terms of Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, not because of his relationship to his wife.
Aaron Lewis, a spokesman for Rohrabacher, told WorldNetDaily Hadayet initially was in the country illegally and that deportation proceedings were under way before he was granted his 245(i) exemption.
“Most people don’t understand that if you’re here illegally, you can’t be included under the spouse clause” of INS regulations, Lewis said.
Hadayet was “legal” the day he was killed, Lewis said, but only because of the exemption – “the same one [Senate Majority Leader] Tom Daschle [D-S.D.] and President Bush would like to see extended.”
The provision expired in April 2001, Lewis said, noting that Hadeyet had applied for the exemption prior to its expiration.
Section 245(i) “allows illegal immigrants who might otherwise be deported to remain in the United States while they adjust their status to that of a legal permanent resident,” said a statement issued by Rohrabacher’s office.
The congressman’s office explained that immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally could qualify for the 245(i) exemption by paying a $1,000 fee and either finding employment or marrying someone “who has legal residency.”
An INS spokesman confirmed much of what Rohrabacher said, but noted, “There is no such thing as being in the country on a 245(i) exemption.”
“An individual who is physically in the United States but who has no legal status, [but then] gains a basis for a legal status, could file for permanent residency under that section,” said the spokesman, who refused to identify himself.
As for Hadayet, “he had a case pending before the immigration courts at the time his spouse gained permanent residency.”
The spokesman added that because she gained permanent residency, “it would make him legally entitled to become a permanent resident.”
The spokesman said Hadayet entered the U.S. legally on a visitor’s visa, and though it had expired, “he had filed an application for immigration benefits,” which allowed him to remain in the U.S. The spokesman did not know how long Hadayet’s case had been waiting for his immigration hearing.
Rohrabacher’s office said Hadayet was in the country illegally and “was able to avert deportation with a 245(i) visa.”
The California Republican also said he has long warned about potential U.S. enemies “exploiting” the exemption “loophole.”
“Now the 245(i) amnesty for illegal aliens has claimed victims in a very prominent way,” he said. “The INS Congressional Relations office confirmed to my office that [Hadayet] was in the country due to the 245(i) amnesty.”
Rohrabacher said that while Hadayet’s motives for the attack remain unclear, what is known is that “had [he] been deported, the July 4th tragedy could have been avoided.”
In a separate letter to congressional colleagues, Rohrabacher reminded House members that he has often said he believes the 245(i) exemption is a “national security risk.”
“We can no longer ignore the threat 245(i) poses to this country,” he wrote. “The price of cheap labor is too high if it means innocent, law-abiding citizens’ lives are at risk.”
“If there had not been this amnesty,” Lewis added, Hadayet “would have had to go back to Egypt to reapply for a visa.” While there, Lewis said, local U.S. consulate officials would have been able to conduct a more thorough and accurate background check of Hadayet.
If he had ties to terrorist groups – as was reported by a London newspaper – it would be more likely his visa would have been denied, Lewis said.
Lara Kennedy, a spokeswoman for Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo. – head of the House Immigration Reform Caucus – said her boss has led the charge in the House to defeat future implementation of Section 245(i).
She said yesterday that a measure to delay implementation failed to garner a necessary two-thirds majority by a single vote.
President Bush has lobbied in favor of extending amnesty protection to illegal aliens, despite a number of polls and surveys that purport to show an American public opposed to the plan.