Now that two ISIS operatives who entered the U.S. as Iraqi refugees have been arrested on terror-related charges, the heat is sure to get turned up in the debate over the "vetting" of Muslim refugees and whether it is even possible to screen them for terrorist ties.
The two alleged terrorists were arrested Thursday, one in Sacramento and the other in Houston. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the arrests "may have prevented a catastrophic terror-related event in the making and saved countless lives," CBS News reported.
Texas' Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said the arrests "are precisely why I called for a halt to refugees entering the U.S. from countries substantially controlled by terrorists." He said the refugee inflow from these countries should end "until there is an effective vetting process that will ensure refugees do not compromise the safety of Americans and Texans."
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But the fact is that no amount of "vetting" would have stopped one of the two terrorists from entering the country. The refugee arrested in Houston, Omar Faraj Al Harden, was "radicalied" after he arrived in the U.S. as a teenager in 2009, authorities said.
Rep. Brian Babin -- one of most outspoken critics of the refugee resettlement program and author of a bill that would shut the program down pending a full audit -- represents parts of the Houston area where Al Harden lived.
Babin introduced his bill, the Refugee Resettlement Accountability National Security Act, more than five months ago, at a time when few in Congress were interested in the refugee issue.
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"That (Houston area) is my district," Babin told WND in a phone interview Saturday. "I dropped that bill July 30 and quite frankly I was a voice in the wilderness because nobody was talking about it. Then all of a sudden we have the Paris attacks and then San Bernardine. That was just proof in the pudding that what we were suspicious of has been absolutely true and if there were any doubts then these arrests prove the point that we have a problem with this refugee program."
Ryan offers full funding of Obama refugee program
The debate over vetting Syrian refugees raged in Congress following the Paris attacks but, in the end, Speaker Paul Ryan and the Republican leadership decided to fully fund President Obama's expanded refugee resettlement program. That program will allow the United Nations to select 85,000 refugees that the Obama administration will then distribute into more than 180 U.S. cities and towns during the current fiscal year.
And Obama plans to ramp up the program further in 2017 with 100,000 refugees bound for U.S. cities. The president has said there should never be a 'religious test' for those seeking refuge in America and tried to marginalize the pushback against his plans as xenophobia from people "afraid of widows and orphans."
But roughly half of the nearly 200,000 refugees entering the U.S. over the next two years will come from countries with active jihadist movements – Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Bosnia, Uzbekistan and Burma, among others.
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Al Harden, 23, was a Palestinian born in Iraq who had come to Houston as a refugee in November 2009, when he would have been a teenager. He passed through the vaunted "vetting" process that Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have described as the "most rigorous" screening faced by any category of immigrant.
Authorities said Al Harden got "radicalized" after he arrived in the U.S. so no amount of "vetting" would have mattered in his case.
"I don't know the details of his radicalization but the majority of the time we're getting a lot of these folks radicalized on the Internet after they arrive," Babin told WND. "But many are radicalized in our local mosques and these radical imams will go into our prisons and recruit there."
Babin said he was disappointed the GOP leadership could not even get the language of the American SAFE Act requiring enhanced vetting of refugees -- a weaker version of his bill -- included in the omnibus spending bill.
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"The Democrats said it was a non-starter," he said, and Ryan buckled.
So Babin says he will return to the drawing board and promote his bill, which goes further than the SAFE Act, actually halting all refugee resettlements pending a full audit of the program's costs to taxpayers and its risks to national security.
"We're going to be pushing my colleagues. We hadn’t been pushing it but with these arrests we are going to because this problem is not going away, it's as severe and acute as ever and I don't know what it's going to take for this president and for Hillary Clinton to wake up and realize we're in a war," he said. "We're in a war with these radical Islamic terrorists and they won't even name the enemy."
Babin said he was astonished Obama would push for expanded background checks for gun purchases while refusing enhanced background checks for Syrian and Iraqi refugees as required by the SAFE Act.
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"He's promised to veto the SAFE Act if it passes the Senate while at the same time he wants to implement these needless background checks on law-abiding Americans so he can disarm us," Babin said. "Yet he doesn’t want to do enhanced background checks on potential jihadists."
Warnings from Obama's own FBI director ignored
Obama's own FBI director, James Comey, as well as others in the Department of Homeland Security have warned that it's impossible to vet refugees from Syria and other failed states where the U.S. has no access to reliable law enforcement records.
Thursday's arrests of two refugees, one in Sacramento and the other in Houston, are just the latest in a long line of refugees and asylum seekers from Muslim-dominated countries who have run afoul of the law.
In 2011 two other Iraqi refugees resettled in Bowling Green, Kentucky, were arrested and charged with providing material support to al-Qaida. An ABC News investigation in 2013 found that they likely were among "several dozen" terrorists who slipped through the refugee screening process and were allowed into the U.S. in 2009. That's the same year, interestingly, that Al Harden entered the U.S. as a refugee from Iraq.
Jayna Davis, author of "The Third Terrorist," a New York Times bestseller about the Oklahoma City bombing in which she ties a former Iraqi refugee to the bombing that killed 168 people, theorized in a recent exclusive article by WND that Islamic terrorist organizations have been building sleeper cells in the U.S. for decades. They have used the refuge and other immigration programs to do this, she said.
The U.S. has permanently resettled about 119,000 Iraqi refugees since 2002, according to State Department data.
Other refugees from Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have also been charged with engaging in terrorist activity after they arrived in the U.S.
Babin bill still languishing in House
Babin's bill is considered the strongest legislation calling the refugee resettlement program into account. His House Bill 33144 has garnered 84 co-sponsors but so far the GOP leadership in the House has managed to keep the bill buried in committee.
Babin said vetting is a crucial part of the program but vetting alone will not provide answers to how refugees get radicalized after they arrive in the states.
"I think we have to look at the whole picture," he said. "My bill would halt the whole program. I think you have to look at the basic premise of what Mr. (Donald) Trump is saying and I think we have to really take a long, hard look at the influx of folks into this country who do not assimilate and do not appreciate the values of a free society based on our Constitution as written by our founding fathers. So I think we have to be very careful of who we allow into this country and focus on those who value and recognize what it stands for and how that has made it the great country it is."
But instead of Babin's bill, Ryan, the new House speaker, chose to promote another bill authored by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas. McCaul's American SAFE Act of 2015 calls for a "pause" in refugee resettlements from Iraq and Syria until better screen processes could be implemented, but this bill, yet to be taken up in the Senate, lacks the teeth to stop a single refugee from being delivered to U.S. shores.
Instead, Ryan and the House leaders rammed through a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill that fulling funds Obama's refugee program at $1.6 billion per year. It also funded all visa programs used by Muslim migrants.
The Senate's immigration subcommittee estimated that all these programs together translated to about 170,000 new lifetime migrants from Muslim countries this year. Tens of thousands of additional temporary migrants will come from the same countries.
680,000 Muslim migrants come to U.S. every five years
Every five years, the U.S. admits more migrants from Muslim countries (680,000) than the population of Washington, D.C. Yet, according to a recent Rasmussen poll, 70 percent of voters say the U.S. should admit either zero refugees from the Middle East or fewer than 10,000.
Nonetheless, the so-called Gang of Eight bill that passed the Senate in 2013 would have tripled green card issuances and substantially expanded the fiancé visa, the child migration program, and refugee admissions. Similarly, the new I-Squared bill sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., would remove immigration and foreign worker caps, adding a dramatic jolt to already record immigration levels.
"Our mindless immigration policies are introducing radicalism, extremism and terrorism into the United States," said Stephen Miller, communications director for Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. "The American people are left wondering why they keep voting yet feel like they don't have representation."
Sessions' immigration subcommittee has uncovered 72 cases of recently-implicated Islamic terrorists whose presence in the United States is due exclusively to immigration.
U.S. 'voluntarily' importing terror threats
The FBI, meanwhile, can hardly keep up with all of the terror threats. It has more than 900 active investigations into ISIS sympathizers in all 50 states.
"It is a full-time occupation for federal officials spread across the nation to investigate, preempt, disrupt, and prosecute terrorism cases that only exist in the first place because of immigration policy," said a statement from Sessions' office.
"Preventing and responding to these acts is an effort encompassing thousands of federal agents and attorneys and billions of dollars: in effect, we are voluntarily admitting individuals at risk for terrorism and then, on the back end, trying to stop them from carrying out their violent designs," Sessions said.
Babin said he won't stop pushing for his bill to get the attention of the House leadership. He posted the following statement on his website Friday:
"This is exactly why I'm working so hard to suspend America’s broken U.N.-led refugee resettlement program and stop President Obama’s ill-advised plans to expand the program. We’ve been warned by Obama’s own DHS, DNI and FBI directors that they cannot properly vet these folks – and ISIS is delivering on their promise to exploit the program. This serves as yet another wake-up call to anyone who has doubts about the real and imminent threat we face from Obama’s dangerous and reckless refugee policies. We must act now. Further delay is not an option."
Below is just a small sampling of refugees who have come to the U.S. and gotten into trouble.
- One of the two shooters in the May 2015 terrorist attack on a free-speech event in Garland, Texas, Elton Simpson, was reportedly radicalized over the Internet by former Somali refugee Mohamed Hassan. The radical Islamist had lived in Minnesota before traveling to the Middle East to join ISIS, but he continues to recruit new ISIS fighters in America, largely through social media. Hassan used the Twitter handle "miski." Hassan reportedly also had a hand in inspiring Syed Farook to commit mass slaughter of 14 people at an employee Christmas party in San Bernardino last month.
- In June 2014, the FBI stopped an 18-year-old Somali man from boarding a plane in Minneapolis because they believe his destination was Syria and the ISIS battlefield. The teen had obtained a security clearance to wash planes at the airport.
- Two Iraqi refugees living in Bowling Green, Kentucky, were arrested in 2011 and charged with sending material support to al-Qaida in Iraq.
- In February, WND reported that Qayed Murtaza Shareef, 39, the founder of Irvine-based Adaptive Media, a publicly traded company that helps clients with digital and video advertising, was arrested and charged with multiple counts of trying to lure young boys into sexually explicit conversations over the Internet. Shareef came to the U.S. 28 years ago as a child refugee from Afghanistan.
- In May 2013, 31-year-old refugee Fazliddin Kurbanov from Uzbekistan was arrested on terrorism charges in Boise, Idaho, WND reported. The FBI alleges he had traveled from his home in Boise to train Islamic recruits in Utah in bomb making. He allegedly planned to blow up a military base. He was convicted in August 2015.
- The Boston Marathon bombers, the Tsarnaev brothers, entered the country as asylum seekers from Chechnya.
- Since 2007, the FBI confirms that at least 48 Somalis have left the U.S. to fight for al-Shabab and ISIS. They hold U.S. passports and could return at any time.
- Omar Muhammad Kalmio, who came to Minnesota as a boy refugee, was charged with four murders in 2011 in North Dakota, allegedly shooting to death a 19-year-old woman, her brother, mother and the mother’s boyfriend.
- Ibrahim Muhammad Abdullahi, 26, was charged in August 2014 with murder in the shooting death of Jeffrey Willingham in St. Paul, Minnesota, KMSP-TV Fox 9 reported. He had been released from jail just months earlier from serving a sentence for beating up a shuttle bus driver with a baseball bat in St. Paul.
- A 23-year-old Somali refugee living in Columbus, Ohio, Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, was arrested April 16, 2015 and charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIS terrorists in Syria, WBNS-10 TV reported. The Department of Justice said “this case is unusual in that he actually went to Syria and returned to conduct attacks. Most of these ‘aspiring jihadists’ don’t leave the country.” Another Somali in the Columbus area had been arrested on terrorist charges in 2011.
- Three residents of New York City, two from Uzbekistan and one from Kazakhstan, were arrested in February 2015 and charged with conspiring to support ISIS in Syria, Fox News reported. The men were identified as Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 24, a resident of Brooklyn and a citizen of Uzbekistan; Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, a resident of Brooklyn and a citizen of Kazakhstan; and Abror Habibov, 30, a resident of Brooklyn and a citizen of Uzbekistan.