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  1. Scapegoating Immigrant Spouses, Refugees, Continues After Attack Pt. 1. Roger Algase

    Update: December 5, 1:51 pm

    Huffington Post has now published the most complete information I have seen so far about the background of Tashfeen Malik, the female terrorist (and I see nothing inappropriate about using that word for someone who killed 14 innocent people in cold blood and, allegedly, also posted allegiance to ISIS on Facebook, even if the US government is still hesitating to use that word).

    The question, for purpose of my comments, is whether there was anything in her known background that could have triggered a warning sign on the part of a US visa officer doing a security check in connection with her application for a K-1 fiancee visa.

    According the Huffpost (in a December 5 article coincidentally written by a lead reporter with a somewhat similar name, Mehreen Zahra-Malik), Tashfeen Malik was born in the Punjab area of Pakistan but brought to Saudi Arabia as a toddler by her father Gulzar, who was described by a family member as becoming "more deeply religious, more conservative and more hardline" after his move to Saudi Arabia, which, even though it receives huge amounts of arms from the United States and is considered one of America's more reliable "allies" in the Middle East, is not exactly known as a bastion of human rights, religious tolerance or equality for women.

    Tashfeen Malik later returned to the same area of Pakistan as an adult to study pharmacy. According to a former Pakistani ambassador to the US, that area, including the city of Multan, where her university was located, and where her father had also built a house where he stays on visits to Pakistan, is known as a center for radical Islamist groups.

    Gulzar, evidently, had also had a dispute over a house, among other matters, with his family and was totally estranged from them. After coming to the US with the fiancee visa, getting married to Farook and having a young infant child, Tashfeen Malik evidently did not have much of an online presence, other than her Facebook profile established under an alias which was deleted for praising or promoting "acts of terror". Her name was also attached to an online gift registry for her baby.

    There does not seem to be very much in this history which would have been the basis for denial of a visa, even though perhaps, with hindsight, the Facebook post could have drawn more attention.

    There is clearly nothing in this history that would justify suspending or questioning the entire fiancee visa program, which is used only by people who are engaged to marry American citizens, or a variety of other visa programs which anti-immigrant ideologues such as Sen Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) and other Republicans have long been attacking for any reasons they can possibly think of.

    Nor is there anything in this history that would give the State of Texas, which also happens to be the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit by 26 states seeking mass deportation of millions of Mexican and other Latino immigrants, any legal basis for its utterly groundless lawsuit seeking to bar the Federal government from resettling any Syrian refugees in that state.

    Details of that lawsuit will be discussed in Part 2 of these comments.

    The full Huffpost story can be found at:

    My previous comments and update appear below.

    Update: December 4, 3:08 pm

    A late report from the LA Times says that Syed Farook, one of the San Bernardino mass killers, had contact with two terror organizations overseas, one in Syria (Nusra Front) and one in Somalia (Shabab). The massacre is now being investigated as a terror attack.

    This will no doubt increase right wing political pressure to delay or deny visas in many categories to thousands, if not millions, of innocent applicants who have no connection with terrorism, and to stigmatize and scapegoat innocent Muslims and other minority immigrants and American citizens in the United States. See:

    Update: December 4, 11:48 am

    Huffpost, in a breaking story, reports that Tashfeen Malik, the female San Bernardino mass killer, allegedly pledged allegiance to ISIS on Facebook using an alias and then deleted the messages before the attack. While, this report, if true, would indicate that she and her husband became radicalized somewhere along the line, a possibility that no one has ever ruled out and which has been under investigation, according to news reports, there is still no indication that ISIS was actually involved in the attack.

    However the fact that Farook and Malik, by all indications that are known so far, appear to have been lone wolves, however radicalized, will certainly not deter the Islamophobes, nativists and other immigrant haters from trying to make hundreds of thousands of refugees and other would-be immigrants, who have every reason in the world to loathe and detest ISIS and radical Islam, scapegoats for the horrible crime that took place in San Bernardino - one that could very possibly have been prevented by effective gun control laws. See:

    My original post follows:

    No one should underestimate the seriousness of the December 2 San Bernardino attack which killed 14 people during a holiday party at a center for disabled people and caused terrible panic and carnage. Nor is it possible at this stage to rule out the possibility of a connection with Islamist terrorists or terrorist groups.

    It appears that the couple involved in the killing, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, evidently managed to stay below the radar of federal law enforcement officials responsible for tracking terrorists in the US and overseas. But as the Los Angeles Times reports in its outstanding coverage of the attackers' background, far more thorough and detailed than that of any other media I have seen so far:

    "But the cache of pipe bombs and ammunition that the authorities found after the couple were killed by police suggested a single-minded and long-standing focus on violence."

    It is reasonable to assume that an impromptu reaction to an argument that might have broken out at the holiday party this was not. The LA Times was also one of the first, if not the first, media to report fully on the background of the couple.

    Farook was a US citizen, born in Chicago to a Pakistani immigrant father, and Farook was apparently a devout Muslim with no history of violence whatsoever. But he grew up in a home with an abusive father.

    He met Malik, who was born in Pakistan but lived most of her life in Saudi Arabia, online and traveled to Saudi Arabia for nine days in the summer of 2014, bringing her back to the US with a legal fiancee visa, one which requires full security background checks.

    There was, apparently, no history of terrorist connections or radicalization either during Farook's brief stay in Saudi Arabia or after his return. The LA Times also reports that Farook's older brother, Syed Raheel, served in the navy and was awarded two medals for service in the "Global War on Terrorism".

    The couple also had a six-month old baby and they seemed like normal parents of new-born child, even to the point of considerately leaving their baby with its grandmother before setting off on their horrific killing spree.

    For the full report, see:

    Based on the above history, it is difficult to see how even the most intensive security background checks and vetting could have turned up any indication that this couple could turn into mass killers or terrorists along the lines of "Bonnie and Clyde" (my comparison - I have not seen it yet anywhere in the media).

    But even though checking them for possible terrorist or jihadist connections apparently came up blank, there is one small detail that would have shown that this was not an ordinary suburban couple and that something very big and dangerous, possibly even much worse that the mass killing which actually took place, might have been afoot.

    This minor little detail was that the couple had manged to amass an arsenal of weapons which the LA Times, in the above report, describes as follows:

    "San Bernardino police chief Jarrod Burguan says officers found 1,400 assault rifle rounds and another 200 handgun rounds in the couple's rental car. Inside the pair's apartment, authorities recovered an additional 2,000 handgun rounds, 2,500 assault rifle rounds, a dozen pipe bombs and hundreds of tools for bomb making."

    If America had realistic and decent gun control laws, like most of the rest of the world, surely this couple would not have been able to amass such a potentially destructive arsenal undetected. Bells would have undoubtedly begun to ring somewhere.

    But for our politicians, especially within the Republican party, even mentioning the words "gun control" is absolutely off limits, totally unthinkable, no matter how many thousands of Americans die in gun violence each year, far more even than the number who died in the 9/11 attacks almost 15 years ago. What is their formula for protecting the American people from further violence and mass, killings, therefore?

    It is to continue scapegoating immigrants by restricting or eliminating visas that have been used by millions of innocent, law abiding people up to now, especially fiance and refugee visas.

    The LA Times reports (early on December 4) that Dan Stein, president of the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR), which has a long and vocal record of opposing virtually all immigration, is now attempting to use the San Bernardino attack as pretext to suggest that all visas, including fiance visas, should be looked at as potentially dangerous to US security because "proper screening and not always possible." See:


    The above story also quotes Reshma Samasunder, executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, as responding with a call for reason and tolerance. In her words:

    "We call upon all Californians to stand against scapegoating and ensure that the horrible actions of a few are not used to scapegoat entire communities who are a fundamental part of our state and nation."

    On the same day, Sens. Ted Cruz (R - Texas) and Jeff Sessions (R - Alabama), who have also been consistently against just about every from of immigration, legal and illegal, went even further in using San Bernardino as an excuse to scapegoat millions of immigrants who are unlikely ever to have even the remotest connection with Islamist radicalism.

    The following is an extract from their December 3 letter to the Secretaries of the US Department of Homeland Security and Department of State, as well as the Attorney General:

    "In our struggle against terrorism, we are dealing with an enemy that has shown it is not only capable of bypassing US screening, but of recruiting and radicalizing Muslim migrants after their entry into the United States. The recruitment of terrorists in the US is not limited to adult migrants, but to their young children and their US-born children - which is why family immigration history is necessary to understand the nature of the threat."

    Let us look at for a moment at the amazing implications of the above statement. The Senators are not talking here about individual responsibility, which has always been at the heart of American law, but of family responsibility, at least where possible terrorism is concerned.

    Based on the logic of this letter, Syed Farook's Pakistani-born father, who has never been connected with any terrorism or violence whatsoever, and whose older son has received two medals for his service in the US navy in support of the War on Terrorism, should never have been allowed into the United States because his (as yet unborn) younger son would one day become a mass killer.

    Based on this logic, one can also expect that Farook and Malik's six month-old American-born baby (or possibly her future children or grandchildren) will be under close observation for possible jihadist sympathies when she grows up.

    To be continued.
    Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 35 years, he has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants obtain work visas and green cards. He believes that immigration law not only depends on technical rules, but also involves issues of basic human rights, fundamental fairness and equal justice under the law.

    Rogers's email address is

    Updated 12-05-2015 at 03:37 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

  2. Should Fiance Visas Be Abolished Due To San Bernardino Shooting? By Roger Algase

    Update: December 3, 4:05 pm

    An even later LA Times report says that Syed's Farook's wife or companion, Tashfeen Maiik, was in the US on a visa from Pakistan (it does not say what kind), and that the couple had made one or more trips to Pakistan, which could mean anything. There is still no report of any terror organization being involved in the mass shooting at San Bernardino.

    Update, December 3, 3:04 pm.

    The information about the two San Bernardino shooting suspects, Syed Rizwan Farook and his companion (or wife) Tashfeen Malik, continues to be confusing. A late report from the LA Times says that she may have originally been from Pakistan, not Saudi Arabia. The report also says that Syed (a US born American citizen) apparently grew up with an abusive father.

    This might indicate a personal motive for the mass shooting attack, but on the other hand, as police officials have pointed out, there seems to have been a good deal of advance paramilitary style preparation.

    So far as I am aware, no terrorist group has claimed any involvement or responsibility in this incident.

    The LA Times report is at:

    My previous update and original post follow:

    While it is far too soon to make any definitive comment about the motives for the horrendous mass shooting which killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California on December 2, the Los Angeles Times reports that the two killer suspects, both Muslims, were husband and wife, with a 6-month old baby. The husband, Syed Riswan Farook, was reportedly an American-born US citizen, who met his wife, Tashfeen Malik, online and traveled to Saudi Arabia to see her in person.

    While there has been no mention in the press about her immigration status, it would seem to be possible that she may have come to the US with a K fiancee visa, or that if they married in Saudi Arabia, she might have come to the United States as a lawful US permanent resident based on the marriage.

    Neither scenario would lend any support to the latest current attempts to scapegoat and demonize immigrants, namely the calls for barring Syrian refugees from the United States and the movement to carry out mass deportations against unauthorized Mexican and mainly Latin American immigrants.

    Whether there is a possible connection with ISIS or some other jihadist terrorist organization is still under investigation. No such organization has as yet claimed responsibility for this attack, which is reported to be the 355th mass shooting in America this year.

    It is not likely that the haters and xenophobes will lose any time in blaming all Muslim immigrants, or all Muslims and all immigrants, for this horrific attack. Do not hold your breath waiting for anyone to blame all Christians or other non-Muslims for the 354 other mass shootings in America so far this year. The double standard is still in effect.

    Most of all, do not spend any time waiting for our politicians to do anything about the easy access to guns which has enabled shooting attacks to take place in America more times in 2015 than there have been days in this year so far.

    The LA Times report is available at

    I have also been critical of two bills now pending in Congress, one in the Senate and the other in the House, which would place additional security check barriers in the way of Syrian refugees which are obviously intended either to create a long delay or to make it virtually impossible for these refugees to come to the United States at all.

    In the wake of yesterday's latest mass shooting, I would now be willing to support these two bills with one change: instead of requiring the lengthy, enhanced and cumbersome (if not totally impossible to comply with) additional background checks for Syrian refugees, these background security checks should apply to anyone seeking to buy a gun in the United States.

    Then we might be able to save more than 10,000 American lives each year that are now being lost to uncontrolled gun violence committed by people of whatever religion, belief, or immigration/citizenship status.
    Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 35 years, he has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants obtain work visas and green cards. Roger does not practice in the fields of refugee or asylum law, but he believes that all immigrants are entitled to basic human rights, including fair treatment and equal justice before the law.

    Roger's email address is

    Updated 12-03-2015 at 04:06 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

  3. US Security Officials Discount Danger of Syrian Refugee Terrorism. By Roger Algase

    Update: December 3, 6:35 am

    The following is the statement of the Council on American-Islamic relations (CAIR) regarding the San Bernardino shooting, as reported in Al Jazeera America:

    "We condemn this horrific and revolting attack and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured...The Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans in repudiating any twisted mindset that would claim to justify such sickening acts of violence."

    Update: December 3, 6:12 am

    The two San Bernadino killers (evidently husband and wife or at least in a couple relationship) have been identified as Muslims. The man was a US citizen; the citizenship of the woman is not known as yet. The guns, evidently, were purchased legally.

    According to reports, this is the 355th mass killing which has taken place in the US this year, which would indicate that there are also a lot of violent and dangerous non-Muslims in America, out of whose hands we also have to keep guns.

    So far, there is no information that has been released as to whether any Islamist terror group was involved. None has claimed responsibility. But little details like this are not likely to stop an outpouring of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hate, as witnessed by a comment below.

    I will not make any further comment until more facts are known about this shooting. It is too early to jump to any conclusions, other than to say that there are too many guns in America, and it is too easy for criminals or deranged people of any religious affiliation or none at all, and any citizenship or immigration status, to get hold of them

    Update: December 2, 9:51 pm

    It is still too early to tell the identity or motives of the two dead suspects in the sickening, despicable, shooting at a San Bernadino center for disabled people, or of a third suspect who is believed to be on the loose. However, one late report (as of this hour) says that the room where the shooting that killed 14 people took place had been rented by a health care provider.

    While no further information is yet available, it is reasonably safe to make one prediction: If the shooting was carried out by Muslims, foreign or domestic, of any citizenship or immigration status, there will undoubtedly be hysterical calls in the right wing media and among Republican politicians (and some Democrats too, no doubt) to seal our borders immediately against all non-citizens and lock up all of America's four million Muslim citizens in concentration camps. Even if the perpetrators turn out to be non-Muslim immigrants or naturalized US citizens, there will in all likelihood be calls to seal the borders and carry out mass deportations of 11 million people.

    If on the other hand, the suspects turn out to have been white, native-born US citizens, the whole incident will most likely be dismissed by the right wing as just another unavoidable event: "We can't check everyone's mental health in advance, you know."

    That is what America is becoming today.

    My previous comments follow:

    Update: December 2, 8:00 pm

    According to The Guardian, in a December 2 article, a French Journalist and former ISIS hostage, Nicolas Henin, has warned that by closing their borders against Syrian refugees, western countries may actually be playing into the hands of ISIS propagandists who want all Muslims to believe that they are hated by the West.

    Henin was held hostage by the notorious "Jihadi John", Mohammend Emwazi, along with six other hostages whom he eventually beheaded on videos which were circulated all over the world. Henin was released along with other French Hostages in April, 2014.

    The Guardian writes:

    "Henin said that the summer refugee crisis had been a propaganda blow to ISIS. Images of refugees fleeing the Muslim 'deamland' and being welcomed in the lands of 'unbelievers' had given a lie to their message of western hatred toward Muslims, he said. 'And that is why they probably tried to manipulate the public during the Paris attack, to make us close our borders, and maybe, even more importantly, to close our minds.'"

    For the full story, see:

    The sponsors of two Congressional bills, one in the Senate and one in the House, which would effectively end any hope that even the tiny number of 10,000 Syrian refugees could now have of coming to the United States any time in the near future, might want to pay attention to Henin's warning. He unquestionably knows a few things about ISIS from personal experience that hopefully no one else will ever have to find out the hard way.

    My original post appears below.

    At a recent NATO-sponsored conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the attitude of American security experts to the alleged terror threat posed by Syrian refugees was considerably calmer and more measured than that of many American politicians. In contrast to the predominantly Republican Senators, Representatives, Governors and presidential candidates (supported by some Democrats) who are issuing dire warnings of possible attacks on American soil if Syrian refugees are allowed into the United States, the officials who are actually in charge of our security see much less danger. Al Jazeera reports (on November 25):

    "Conspicuously absent from the anti-refugee chorus, however, are the military officials and security experts whose jobs it is to actually keep the homeland safe. Nowhere was that more apparent than at last weekend's Halifax International Security Forum (HISF), and annual NATO-sponsored summit that is held on Canada's eastern seaboard and happened to fall a week after the Paris attacks. Whether on stage during discussions of the burgeoning ISIL threat, or in interviews on the sidelines, it was hard to find anyone who shared the alarmist warning that resettlement could provide a 'federally funded jihadi pipeline'...into the United States.

    'We have systems in place to vet people and see where they're coming from' said Admiral Bill Gortney, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, during one discussion at HISF. ' Does that mean it's foolproof? No.' But ultimately, he said, 'it's a political decision.'"

    See: As US politicians protest, security officials brush off refugee 'hysteria'

    (I apologize for not being able to find the direct link to this article, which can be easily accessed through Google or by going to the Al Jazeera America website.)

    Al Jazeera continues:

    "The sober tone set by U.S., Canadian and other Western security officials at the forum lent credence to the arguments of refugee advocates, who have accused lawmakers of fear-driven xenophobia in the wake of Paris."

    Possibly our politicians and media might serve the American public better, and make the US safer, if, instead of stoking up fear and prejudice against Muslim refugees (and Muslim-Americans in general), they concentrated on more immediate threats to our security, such as the ongoing violence and threats of violence against abortion providers, or the epidemic of killings of unarmed black teenagers by white policemen.
    Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 35 years, he has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants obtain work visas and green cards.

    Roger does not practice in the field of refugee or asylum law, but he believes that all immigrants are entitled to equal protection, fundamental fairness and basic human rights, and that denying these rights to any class of immigrants can lead to all other immigrants losing them as well.

    Roger's email address is

    Updated 12-03-2015 at 12:21 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

  4. Who Have Harmed the US More, Refugees or Domestic Terrorists? By Roger Algase

    As Congress continues to debate two bills aimed specifically against Syrian refugees, H.R. 4038, which would slow down the already tiny trickle of such refugees by imposing cumbersome additional layers of bureaucracy; and S.2284, which would impose a total (temporary) moratorium on admissions, while giving Congress a veto power over any future favorable determination by US security officials regarding Syrian refugees, it is instructive to see who have posed the greater danger of terrorism to America historically, refugees, or domestic attackers.

    Huffington Post offers an answer to this question in its November 30 article: Planned Parenthood Shooter Killed More Than Any Supposed Refugee Terrorist.

    Huffpost writes:

    "Robert Dear, the accused gunman at Planned Parenthood, actually took more lives than all the refugees have done in terrorist attacks since 1980, when the current federal process for settling foreigners on humanitarian grounds was put in place by the Refugee Act.

    No refugee admitted to this country in the 35 years since then has carried out a domestic terrorist plot, according to immigration expert David Bier [an analyst at the libertarian Niskanen Center]."​

    This is something that the same politicians who are trying to make scapegoats of Syrian refugees might want to consider before inciting any more people to commit violence against US abortion clinics.

    (Just as a footnote, there is a widespread misconception that the two Boston Marathon bombers were refugees. This is not the case. Their father was granted political asylum after arrival in the US - an entirely different process. According to all available evidence, the children were radicalized in the United States after they grew up. See Huffington Post: The Boston Bombers Were Not Refugees - Neither Was the Paris Attacker - November 18 - I do not have the link; please use Google.)

    Updated 12-01-2015 at 09:18 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

  5. Unlike US, Canada's Syrian Refugee Policy Shows Reason and Humanity. By Roger Algase

    In contrast to American politicians who are demonizing and scapegoating Syrian refugees, as shown by two bills in Congress (H. 4038 and S. 2284) which are based on an assumption that all Muslims are inherently so violent and dangerous that effective refugee security screening is virtually impossible (see my two previous posts), Canada is adopting a refugee policy based on reason and humanity.

    The Toronto Star reports on November 29 that the Canadian government plans to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of February, 2016. Since the US population of 300 million people is about nine times as big as Canada's population of 35 million, this would be roughly equivalent to admitting 225,000 Syrian refugees to the US over the same period.

    If US policy toward Syrian refugees were based on reality, instead of xenophobia and paranoia over possible terrorist attacks which very few, if any, of the estimated more than 700,000 refugees America has accepted within the last few decades have had the slightest connection with, 225,000 would be the minimum number of Syrian refugees this country could accept and absorb.

    (According to one estimate, the US has accepted 3.25 million refugees since 1975. See

    Instead, the Obama administration is offering to admit only 10,000 Syrian refugees over a period of two years, and even this tiny gesture in the direction of compassion and humanity is running into furious opposition in Congress, as in the House and Senate bills mentioned above.

    (I have already discussed the House bill in my previous posts. The Senate bill, which would allow a highly polarized and politicized Congress to overrule even the most careful and intensive Syrian refugee screening by the intelligence community through passing a binding "Resolution of Disapproval", will be discussed in more detail in an upcoming post.)

    The Toronto Star reports that the Canadian Syrian refugee resettlement program has already been launched by opening a refugee processing center in Amman Jordan on November 29, under the eye of the Canadian immigration minister and other federal cabinet ministers who traveled to Jordan for the opening. 90 people were put through the multi-step screening process on the first day and told that the process should be completed in time for them to travel to Canada by this coming February. See:

    In another move to help Syrian refugees, the Canadian government has agreed to exempt them from having to pay back the cost of their resettlement, a requirement which applies to refugees from other countries. See

    What could explain the difference between the decency and humanity shown by the Canadian government toward Syrian refugees and the contrasting attitudes of so many American Senators, Representatives state governors and presidential candidates? Do the Canadian intelligence officials have more access to databases and background information about the the refugees than American officials? Not very likely.

    The only difference is that the Canadians are evidently motivated more by good will and respect for basic human rights than US politicians, who seem to have other priorities regarding Syrian refugee policies.

    Moreover, while comparing American and Canadian refugee policies may appear to be only an academic exercise at the moment, there could come a time when Canadian refugee procedures might become something of more practical concern to a substantial number of Americans if fears about Donald Trump's immigration and other related policies, as expressed by a number of leading US conservative commentators (forget about the liberals and immigration advocates) ever come to fruition. See
    Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 35 years, he has been helping mainly professional and skilled immigrants obtain work visas, green cards and US citizenship.

    Roger does not practice in the area of refugee or asylum law, but he believes that his comments concerning these issues are relevant in combating attempts to stigmatize and scapegoat all immigrants, including but not limited to H-1B, L-1, O-1 and other highly skilled and educated employees and entrepreneurs, by adopting overly restrictive immigration policies in the United States.

    Roger's email address is

    Updated 11-30-2015 at 11:31 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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