Call it the Radical Muslim Cleric Importation Plan. Under the religious worker visa (“R visa”) program, an unknown number of Middle Easterners claiming to be imams or other mosque employees have been admitted to the United States with minimal scrutiny.
According to a complaint from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York unsealed last week, Muslim religious leader Muhammed Khalil, his son Asim, and three other individuals submitted false R visa applications on behalf of more than 200 Middle Eastern aliens. Although Khalil and his cronies were nabbed after an 18-month investigation, federal authorities are mum on the whereabouts of the Middle Eastern illegal aliens who purchased fake R visas from Khalil and his colleagues.
The R visa program, created by Congress in 1990, gives visas to thousands of foreigners to fill alleged domestic shortages among ministries, nunneries and other religious professionals. In 1998, some 11,000 foreigners received such visas. According to a 1999 General Accounting Office report, federal investigators have discovered R visa fraud rings involving churches and other religious institutions based in Colombia, Fiji and Russia.
The mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman, had an R visa. So did four Palestinian men who worked for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and the Islamic Association for Palestine – both Muslim charities that the State Department has linked to the terrorist organization Hamas.
The 1999 GAO report highlighted persistent lapses in oversight. “Neither INS nor [the] State [Department] knows the overall extent of fraud in the religious worker visa program,” the report concluded.
No one knows! Tom Ridge, are you listening? It’s going to take more than duct tape and plastic sheeting to fix this problem.
This much is clear to immigration veterans: The R visa program is a notorious law enforcement evasion scheme under which a number of religious facilities have been established as fronts to enable foreign nationals to enter the U.S. using false identities and evade criminal and terrorist watch lists.
Khalil’s ring charged up to $8,000 per person. His mosque sponsored more than 200 applicants seeking work visas through the INS program, alleging they were religious workers who taught the Koran, Islamic history and the Arabic language. According to the complaint, Khalil supplied fake names (“Amjad Hussain,” “Mohammad Amjad,” “Amjad Ali Chaudhry”); fake degrees (from the University of Punjab); and fake religious training certificates (for the “Nazra Quran Course”).
Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward O’Callaghan revealed in court last week that Khalil made taped comments to an undercover witness proclaiming allegiance with Osama bin Laden and fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. “Hopefully,” Khalil reportedly mused, “another attack in the United States will come shortly.”
Details about how Khalil first arrived in the U.S., why he was allowed to stay, and how he came back to acquire U.S. citizenship are sketchy. But it’s enough to raise alarm bells about the continued laxity in policing fraud in the so-called “immigration services” branch of the federal homeland security bureaucracy.
Prosecutors said Khalil arrived in the United States in 1973, agreed to leave the country at the request of the INS in the late 1970s, and returned in the early 1980s. By 1987, he had secured U.S. citizenship.
Will President Bush’s new appointee to head the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services get on the ball and get to the bottom of this debacle? Not likely. Eduardo Aguirre Jr., like former Immigration and Naturalization Services chief James Ziglar, has zero experience with immigration law or law enforcement. He is a top bureaucrat at the U.S. Export-Import Bank who worked for Bank of America for 24 years, and whose main qualification is being a Cuban immigrant who, according to the White House, was named “One of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics in the Nation” by Hispanic Business Magazine for three consecutive years.
High terror alert? Color me unconvinced.