President Bush has been "briefed," as they say, about the extraordinary spate of Somali piracy that culminated this week in the seizure of the Sirius Star. Incredibly, this Saudi supertanker loaded with crude oil destined for the United States now joins a commandeered fleet of about a dozen ships and 200 crew being held by Somali pirates who, according to Jane's Terrorism and Security Monitor, may well have links to jihadists.
I'm wondering whether President Bush, at any point in his briefing, ever thought to ask his experts: "What is up with Somalia?"
I say this given the disjointed but unmistakable prominence of Somalis in recent news. Or, rather, in what would have been recent news, maybe, if the media weren't preoccupied with more weighty stories such as which Washington private school the Obama girls will attend next semester.
Within the last week, for example, the State Department confirmed that massive immigration fraud has been perpetrated overwhelmingly by Africans claimed as close kin (parent, spouse, minor child) by legal residents in the United States. (According to a report in the City Pages in Minneapolis, this scam has been netting some unknowns along the food chain up to $10,000 per head.) Given that Somalis form the largest bloc of African immigrants to the United States, this becomes another story with Somalis playing a starring role.
Evidence of "family" fakery came out in a very quietly released State Department fact sheet titled "Fraud in the Africa Priority Three (P-3) Program." This release surely would have dropped into the post-Election, pre-Inauguration void of bliss enveloping official Washington were it not for the invaluable blog Refugee Resettlement Watch, which broke the story online.
In the form of a Q&A, the State Department declared that, due to evidence of massive fraud, the government was suspending the family reunification program in Africa, a decision it has since, also very quietly and without explanation, expanded to include the whole world.
How massive was this fraud? After initiating a DNA testing program among "family" members claiming P-3 status in Africa -- where 95 percent of the P-3 applications originate primarily among Somalis, Ethiopians and Liberians -- the State Department learned that out of 3,500 refugees tested it could only confirm family matches "in fewer than 20 percent of cases." No wonder the secretary of State didn't call a giant press conference to trumpet her department's findings.
The P-3 program has brought upward of 36,000 Africans into the United States just since 2003 (with another 400 arriving from the rest of the world), so what now? Or, in Fact Sheet-speak:
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