Two suspects in recent terrorism-related cases were able to move to the U.S. through chain migration, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
In a statement shared Saturday on Twitter, Acting DHS Press Secretary Tyler Houlton said the agency could “confirm the suspect involved in a terror attack in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and another suspect arrested on terror-related money laundering charges were both beneficiaries of extended family chain migration.”
BREAKING: My statement on Immigration Backgrounds of Recent Terror-Related Suspects: pic.twitter.com/I3JfZOfuBh
— Tyler Q. Houlton (@SpoxDHS) December 24, 2017
In the Harrisburg incident, Ahmed Aminamin El-Mofty allegedly went on a shooting spree near the state Capitol building, targeting police officers in multiple surprise attacks. He injured one state trooper before being shot and killed by police.
Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marisco said there was “no doubt” El-Mofty was deliberately trying to kill police.
“He fired several shots at a Capitol police officer and at a Pennsylvania state police trooper in marked vehicles,” Marsico told reporters Saturday, according to the Associated Press.
El-Mofty was a naturalized citizen from Egypt who was originally admitted to the U.S. on a family-based visa, according to DHS.
“The long chain of migration that led to the suspect’s admission into the United States was initiated years ago by a distant relative of the suspect,” Houlton said.
Chain migration, or extended-family immigration, is the process by which a recent arrival to the U.S. can sponsor relatives for immigrant visas of their own. Critics of the system say it allows too much immigration on the basis of family ties alone, instead of potential economic contributions or ability to assimilate. About 70 percent of all immigrants admitted to the U.S. over the last decade were chain migration immigrants.
Houlton’s statement also referred to the case of Zoobia Shahnaz, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan. On Dec. 14, Shahnaz was indicted for allegedly laundering more than $85,000 through Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to fund Islamic State fighters overseas. She sent the funds to people in Pakistan, China and Turkey and planned to travel to Syria to fight with the remnants of ISIS, according to federal investigators.
Shahnaz came to the U.S. on an F43 visa, which is granted to the children of siblings of U.S. citizens. The F4 category has come under scrutiny in recent months, after homeland security officials revealed the suspects in two separate terror attacks in New York were admitted on F43 visas.
“Both chain migration and the diversity visa lottery program have been exploited by terrorists to attack our country,” Houlton said. “Not only are the programs less effective at driving economic growth than merit-based immigration systems used by nearly all other countries, the programs make it more difficult to keep dangerous people out of the United States and to protect the safety of every American.”
The Trump administration and several GOP lawmakers have called for reforms to the chain migration system, possibly as a part of a bill that gives legal status to recipients of the now-cancelled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
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