An Interview with a Bangladeshi in Costa Rica en Route to the U.S. Southwest Border

By Todd Bensman on December 19, 2018

PASO CANOAS, Costa Rica — Whether 29-year-old Omar Farouk, 29, is hiding a forbidden past and present as a terrorist operative is a question for American homeland security officers to answer when he finally reaches the American southern border in a month or two. I found him in a Costa Rican immigration processing center, after he crossed in from Panama and, before that, from Brazil and Colombia. He is from Bangladesh, having traveled with several other Bangladeshis this far.

American authorities do — and should — feel obligated to fully interview Farouk and check into his background should he show up at the border. He'll be appropriately tagged as a "special interest alien", warranting a deeper intelligence dive because, as I have written, Bangladesh these days is "highly trammeled by ISIS and al-Qaeda sympathizers, brooding members of a radical Islamist party now out of power, homegrown jihadists of various strands, mosques where extremism is preached, and returning foreign terrorist fighters with combat experience in Syria."

On the surface, the English-speaking Farouk did not appear to be any of these things and, here at the Costa Rican immigration processing center, he had just submitted to providing his fingerprints, retinal eye scans, and three-angle facial recognition photos via American-provided equipment. By design and prior collaborative arrangement, this material will all end up with U.S. law enforcement intelligence. Plus, he submitted to an interview with me, an American gringo stranger. All of this augurs pretty well for an argument that Farouk likely is no terrorist but an economic migrant, even though Bangladesh is booming economically. Most Bangladeshis are not terrorists nor do they sympathize with terrorists.

But again, we are obligated to know one way or another, because a great many Bangladeshis are migrating over this very same route to the U.S. border, perhaps too many to properly vet. Not all are sound potential U.S. citizens, such as the Bangladeshi migrants who reached the Arizona border together in 2010 and admitted they belonged to a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. One was deported while the other applied for asylum and then absconded without ever showing up for the hearing.

It's a truly rare thing to find such a Bangladeshi migrant and for one to provide a taped interview from the road north. Here is one now: