On April 19, 2017, the Center published my report on "Fraud in the Credible Fear Process", which began:
Since the 2016 presidential campaign, significant attention has been focused on refugees to the United States and the potential dangers that they may pose. Scarce attention has been directed to aliens in expedited removal proceedings with "credible fear" claims, even though they may pose a greater risk to the United States than potential refugees.
Unlike refugees, who are screened before coming to the United States and can be denied refugee status before they enter this country, aliens who enter illegally and claim a "credible fear" of persecution have not been screened before physically entering the United States; as explained below, the process for screening those individuals after they enter the United States is vulnerable to fraud and abuse.
The danger that I warned of appears to have cropped up in an unlikely place: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. But, the alien charged in a rampage there almost definitely abused the credible fear process in the United States to make his way north.
Press reports state that in downtown Edmonton on Saturday, September 30, 2017, Somali national Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, who had been granted refugee status in Canada, "attacked an officer and ran down [four] pedestrians with a truck." It was also reported that Sharif had been "investigated two years earlier for espousing extremist views and was found to have an Islamic State flag in his car."
Sharif got to Canada in an unusual manner. According to the CBC, he "walked into the United States" from Mexico at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on July 12, 2011, with "no documents and no right to be there. Almost immediately, he was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement" (ICE).
Thereafter, CBC explained, "on September 22, 2011, an immigration judge ordered Sharif removed to Somalia," a decision from which he purportedly waived appeal. Rather than being removed, the network reported, Sharif was released from ICE custody in January 2012. That report continues:
Canadian officials have confirmed that Sharif arrived in this country at an official port of entry in 2012. He went through the "regular process" and was granted refugee status later that year, the government said.
There has been no confirmation that Sharif came to the United States through the credible fear process, but if this reporting is correct, there is no other way that an alien without a visa would have been allowed into the United States at a port of entry, taken into custody, and sent before an immigration judge. CBC's description of Sharif's case tracks the expedited removal/credible fear/asylum process set forth in section 235(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
"Fraud in the Credible Fear Process" drew upon research that had been done by Todd Bensman, a former reporter and now manager of terrorism intelligence programs for multiple agencies in Texas, to detail the complicated routes used by aliens from around the world to the Southwest border of the United States.
In his essay for Homeland Security Affairs, "The Ultra-Marathoners of Human Smuggling: How to Combat the Dark Networks that Can Move Terrorists over American Land Borders", Bensman noted:
Even before 9/11, these human smuggling networks were regularly transporting migrants — and potentially, terrorists among them — from some 35-40 Islamic "countries of special interest" in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa. The asylum-seeking people they moved would come to be known as "Other than Mexicans, (OTMs)" and then, even more specifically as American strategy developed around them, the OTM subcategory "special interest aliens (SIAs)."
Included in those "SIAs" are Somali nationals. Why Somalis? As the president explained in section 1(e)(iii) of Executive Order 13780, "Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States":
Portions of Somalia have been terrorist safe havens. Al-Shabaab, an al-Qa'ida-affiliated terrorist group, has operated in the country for years and continues to plan and mount operations within Somalia and in neighboring countries. Somalia has porous borders, and most countries do not recognize Somali identity documents. The Somali government cooperates with the United States in some counterterrorism operations but does not have the capacity to sustain military pressure on or to investigate suspected terrorists.
Bensman and I took part in a Center panel discussion on "Asylum Fraud and National Security" at the National Press Club in May 2017. Prophetically, Bensman stated:
When people talk about the threat of border crossing – you know, terrorists coming across — from the perspective of somebody who has studied this, I don't see this as the likely scenario of one of these folks coming in and then just opening up with bombs and guns and wreaking mayhem like that. I see them as coming in, declaring asylum, getting paroled in very quickly with almost no vetting, and then settling in somewhere for a few months, and then we'll hear about it — as they did in Europe, and as they continue to do.
Fortunately, it appears, in the United States the process worked to prevent such harm. Unfortunately for five victims in Edmonton, it appears that the process in Canada didn't.