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
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 bur
eaucrat 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
High terror alert? Color me unconvinced.