Ibragim Todashev, Asylum, and S.744

By W.D. Reasoner on May 27, 2013

Ibragim Todashev, a Russian national of Chechen origin and the Islamic religion, was killed last week after an interview with police and FBI turned violent and he allegedly attacked an FBI agent. According to reports, Todashev was being questioned about his part in a drug-related triple homicide in Massachusetts and had just admitted complicity.

The triple homicide was a "cold case", as they say, going back to September 11, 2011 — note the day — until law enforcement authorities began to suspect that one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, now dead, may have been culpable, causing them to follow up this thread that eventually led to a series of interviews with Todashev, the final one resulting in his death.

In prior blogs, I expressed my dismay about an immigration system so overwhelmed, so riddled with holes, and so egregiously biased in favor of grants over denials, that it cannot screen out people like Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzhokhar, now charged in the Marathon bombing and facing a possible death sentence. It puts the lie to the oft-repeated "risk management" mantra used by Homeland Security officials to describe their approach to immigration-related security matters.

As if their cases were not proof enough, now we have Todashev's as further evidence. Consider the facts. According to Boston.com, a website of the Boston Globe newspaper, Todashev came to the United States some years ago on a J-1 visa exchange program. The law describes a J visa recipient as "an alien having a residence in a foreign country which he has no intention of abandoning who is a bona fide student, scholar, trainee, teacher, professor, research assistant, specialist, or leader in a field of specialized knowledge or skill" (emphasis added). And yet, not too long after arrival, he applied for asylum, which was granted in 2008. We know that he applied shortly after arrival because asylum regulations require that an application be made within one year of entry. It's pretty evident that Todashev had every intention of abandoning his residence in Russia from day one. In other words, he committed visa fraud.

Under applicable law, an individual must prove that he or she will be persecuted if not granted asylum. The law specifically states that "The burden of proof is on the applicant to establish ... [that] race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion was or will be at least one central reason for persecuting the applicant." Todashev received asylum, ergo he credibly established to the relevant government officials that he was, or would likely be, persecuted on the basis of his ethnicity and religion, right? Well, maybe not so credibly. Also, according to Boston.com, Todashev's father is, in fact, a government official and Todashev and his father maintained close and cordial ties. Todashev had even told his father he would be returning. His father specifically disavowed any possibility that Todashev would ever have been persecuted.

You have to ask yourself: How thorough was our government's examination of this man's claim? Apparently not very. The news reporters had little trouble locating Dad.

The law also provides that individuals granted asylum are entitled to receive lawful permanent residence one year after receiving asylum status. (This presupposes, though, that the grant of asylum was legitimate in the first place.) Boston.com reported that Todashev applied for, and in February of this year (about five months after apparently participating in the triple murder), received his green card.

Looks like Todashev lied throughout his entire interaction with State Department and Homeland Security authorities, doesn't it? There isn't much in this story to give the American public much confidence in governmental screening processes. In fact, they seem to be pretty lopsided in favor of giving the applicant what he wants without much actual inquiry into the facts.

In a post- 9/11 environment we should expect our legislative leaders to fix that gaping hole as a part of immigration "reform" shouldn't we? Well, the Senate's immigration bill, S.744, would "fix" it, okay. Among the outrageous language hidden inside the bill are provisions that would:

  • Forgive amnesty applicants for having previously filed false and frivolous asylum claims;

  • Eliminate the requirement that asylum applications be filed within one year of an alien's arrival; and

  • Allow examiners to grant asylum on-the-spot, immediately upon an alien's arrival at a U.S. land, air, or seaport.

This last provision is extremely troubling. How, exactly, does a government adjudicator have the capability to carefully examine the legitimacy of an alien's claim in the limited confines of the international arrivals area of a port of entry? What kind of national security vetting could possibly done at an airport? It's obvious that the process is already shaky. Let us be clear: immigration policies and national security policies are connected at the umbilical. How many more terrorist attacks will it take until Congress and our immigration authorities finally connect the dots?