Khaled Awad, a 24-year-old Egyptian national, has been charged with stabbing Rabbi Shlomo Noginksi following an attempted carjacking outside of a Shaloh House, a Boston synagogue and Jewish day school on July 1. This case pulls the curtain back on many heretofore concealed flaws in our legal system, not least of which are the human costs of ICE non-enforcement under the Biden administration.
Fox News reports that Awad entered the United States in August 2019 on a student visa, and he was apparently here to study chemical engineering at the University of South Florida. That nonimmigrant visa requires that the student remain enrolled in school, which Awad apparently failed to do, falling out of nonimmigrant status on May 14.
ICE would have been notified in close to real time that Awad was at that point subject to removal.
As I explained in a June 2017 report, nonimmigrant students are closely monitored by designated school officials (DSOs) at the schools they attend. The DSO must report to ICE when a student stops going to class through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
SEVIS is a web-based system that DSOs use to update ICE on, among other things, changes in an alien student’s attendance and address. So, ICE would have known where Awad was – or rather, where he was supposed to be – as well as the fact that he was removable.
There is no indication, however, that ICE, operating under strangling restrictions imposed by the Biden administration, went looking for him, although reports show it should have been.
Nonimmigrant students strike a deal with the United States before they enter this country. We offer them the opportunity to receive world-class educations, but in exchange they must follow our laws, and leave when they are supposed to.
In its FY 2019 Entry/Exit Overstay Report, however, DHS reported that more than three percent of all nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors failed to depart as they were supposed to, and that more than 1.5 percent – almost 30,000 aliens – had overstayed and remained in the United States.
For students and exchange visitors from Awad’s home country of Egypt, those figures are significantly higher, with an overstay rate in FY 2019 of almost five percent, and a suspected remain rate of almost three percent.
Those overstays are “low-hanging fruit” for ICE enforcement because the agency already knows where they are. If ICE leadership were truly concerned about preserving its precious “limited resources”, picking up nonimmigrant student overstays does not require a lot of officers’ time or effort.
Doing so has the added bonus of driving down the overstay rate, because students would then know that they have to keep their noses clean, go to class, and leave when they are done. Simply put, apprehending the student overstays you have today will result in fewer overstays to pick up the next time around.
The Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit at ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations is responsible for keeping track of aliens (and in particular alien students) who “overstay their visas or violate the terms of their visas and are suspected of posing a concern to U.S. national security or public safety”.
Awad certainly seems to have fit that bill. According to Fox News, he previously faced charges in Florida for battery and theft, and had to be sent to a mental-health facility.
And, although Awad has not been brought up on hate crime charges (yet, an investigation is ongoing), there are reasons to believe that Rabbi Noginski was not a random target.
The CBS affiliate in Boston reports that Awad’s college roommates have described him as “violent” and “very much anti-Semitic.”
Violence? One of the roommates (who was Jewish himself) admitted that he and Awad “were friends until Awad attacked him in their shared kitchen one day, prompting him to move out and get a restraining order”.
Anti-Semitic? According to another roommate: “He would say like all types of Jewish jokes. I thought he was joking at first and then I started to see seriousness in his comments”.
As District Attorney Rachael Rollins stated at a vigil in support of Rabbi Noginski on June 2: “We have to recognize that antisemitism is on the rise, and we need to hold people accountable when they do this, so that they are made an example of”.
It appears that the rabbi (a father of 12 who at last report was resting at home after being released from the hospital where at least eight stab wounds were treated) is an immigrant himself. An Israeli citizen, he was born in Russia and moved to Boston from Israel to serve the Russian-speaking Jewish community there.
He is the sort of man the people of this country want to welcome and protect.
Regrettably, however, that is becoming more difficult, not just because the Biden administration has largely halted immigration enforcement, but also because – as Rollins explained – anti-Semitic hate crimes have been on the rise in this country.
According to the FBI, in 2019: “Hate crimes motivated by religious bias accounted for 1,650 offenses reported by law enforcement.“ Of those hate crimes, 60.3 percent were described as “anti-Jewish”, despite the fact that Pew Research reports that just 2.4 percent of adults in the United States are Jewish themselves.
In 2018, by comparison, FBI tabulated 1,550 hate crimes that were motivated by religious animus, of which 57.8 were termed “anti-Jewish”. Anti-Semitism is bad and getting worse.
Then-Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen offered explanations for this growth of anti-Semitism in remarks he delivered in October 2020. He explained:
As we have heard, the Internet is just the latest outlet for the “oldest hatred.” The litany of attacks on the Jewish people has gone on through every era of history. We should not be surprised then – even though it saddens us – that it is part of our modern world. And, since that world depends on the Internet for communication, commerce, and daily life, anti-Semites can use it for their purposes as much as anyone else can use it for legitimate causes.
Again, Awad has not been charged with a hate crime yet, and it is possible that he will not be. He could simply be a disturbed young man, and he has not even been convicted of the current assault and battery charges that he is facing in Boston.
That said, I do not need to cite to numerous statements from elected leaders and others in the public eye that could objectively be described as anti-Semitic. Accepting such slanders without rebuke simply allows the cancer of anti-Semitism to fester and grow. As John Stuart Mill explained in 1867: “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”
This is not a new fight. In his August 1790 letter, “To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island”, then-President George Washington stated:
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
Once more, Awad has not yet convicted, nor has he yet been charged with a hate crime, and in this country, the accused are presumed innocent until proven otherwise. That said, if published reports are true, this case suggests that ICE, under restrictions imposed by the Biden administration, has failed to protect a good man from the oldest of hatreds.