Iraqi national Omar Ameen entered the United States on a refugee visa in 2014. He was living and working as an Uber driver in Sacramento in 2018, several years after his resettlement from the war zones of Iraq, when FBI agents arrested him in his apartment. The agents took him in on a rare extradition request by the Iraqi government that alleged that Ameen served as an ISIS commander in occupied northern Iraq and that on June 22, 2014, he murdered a police officer while leading his unit in Rawah, Iraq.
President Donald Trump’s administration heralded the Ameen case as an example of poor national security vetting for Iraqi refugees, arguing for a halt to the immigration program that brought in Ameen and thousands of other Iraqis. In April 2021, however, that specific Iraqi murder and extradition case fell apart when a California federal judge ruled that Ameen could not plausibly have murdered the Iraqi officer.
But the Ameen case still held up as an example of failed security vetting. In May 2021, President Joe Biden’s Department of Homeland Security (ICE) re-arrested Ameen for deportation based on other evidence that, while Ameen may not have murdered that particular police officer, nine witnesses told the FBI he still operated as an ISIS commander and committed other acts of terror from 2009 through 2014 that would have disqualified him from U.S. refugee status and U.S. entry.
Ameen obtained his refugee status in 2014 after presumed USCIS security vetting and entered the United States that November, settling in California. The security vetting apparently did not check Iraqi government reporting that Ameen had commanded an ISIS unit for at least five years, including the year in which he applied for U.S. refugee status.
In refusing to release Ameen, the Biden Department of Homeland Security cited intelligence that the Iraqi government provided – and also independent FBI interviews – alleging that Ameed was, at the time, a terrorist commander who had engaged in acts of terrorism, according to the Washington Post in July 2021. During a hearing on his further detention, former FBI special agent William Denton, who had initially interrogated Ameen about the police officer murder, said Ameen lied or misled officials during the refugee application process, which took place in Turkey, because he did not acknowledge his or his relatives’ alleged involvement in terrorism.
“We concluded that … Omar Ameed personally engaged in numerous acts of terrorism in and around the Rawah area, starting from 2009 up until the latest potentially in 2014,” Agent Denton said. “Mr. Ameen knew and had associations with a terrorist organization that he did not disclose.”
As of May 2022, the federal government added three new charges to Ameen's case, accusing him of lying about his father being shot to death, his brother being kidnapped by masked men and that he had no information about his brother after the purported kidnapping. Ameed was challenging the veracity of government witnesses and the Iraqi government, who told FBI investigators of his alleged involvements with ISIS. He has claimed he was never part of ISIS or involved in terrorist acts.
His attorneys claimed he was a “properly vetted and admitted” refugee. No new information was available about the case in the Spring of 2023.