Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Jihadists' Deadly Path To Citizenship By Michelle Malkin


May 5, 2010

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America's homeland-security amnesia never ceases to amaze.

In the aftermath of the botched Times Square terror attack over the weekend, Pakistani-born bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad's U.S. citizenship status caused a bit of shock and awe. The Atlantic magazine writer Jeffrey Goldberg's response was typical:

"I am struck by the fact that he is a naturalized American citizen, not a recent or temporary visitor."

Well, wake up and smell the deadly deception.

Shahzad's path to American citizenship — he reportedly married an American woman, Huma Mian, in 2008 after spending a decade in the country on foreign student and employment visas — is a tried-and-true terror formula.

Jihadists have been gaming the sham marriage racket with impunity for years. And immigration benefit fraud has provided invaluable cover and aid for U.S.-based Islamic plotters, including many other operatives planning attacks on New York City. As I've reported previously:

• El Sayyid A. Nosair wed Karen Ann Mills Sweeney to avoid deportation for overstaying his visa. He acquired U.S. citizenship, which allowed him to remain in the country. Nosair was later convicted for conspiracy in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that claimed six lives.

• Ali Mohamed became an American citizen after marrying a woman he met on a plane trip from Egypt to New York. Recently divorced, Linda Lee Sanchez wed Mohamed in Reno, Nev., after a six-week "courtship." Mohamed became a top aide to Osama bin Laden and was later convicted for his role in the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya that killed 12 Americans and more than 200 others.

• Embassy bombing plotter Khalid Abu al Dahab obtained citizenship after marrying three different American women.

• Embassy bombing plotter Wadih el Hage, Osama bin Laden's personal secretary, married April Ray in 1985 and became a naturalized citizen in 1989. Ray knew of her husband's employment with bin Laden, but like many of these women in bogus marriages, she pleaded ignorance about the nature of her husband's work. El Hage, she says, was a sweet man, and bin Laden "was a great boss."

• Lebanon-born Chawki Youssef Hammoud, convicted in a Hezbollah cigarette-smuggling operation based out of Charlotte, N.C., married American citizen Jessica Fortune for a green card to remain in the country.

• Hammoud's brother, Mohammed Hammoud, married three different American women. After arriving in the United States on a counterfeit visa, being ordered deported and filing an appeal, he wed Sabina Edwards to gain a green card. Federal immigration officials refused to award him legal status after this first marriage was deemed bogus in 1994.

Undaunted, he married Jessica Wedel in May 1997 and, while still wed to her, paid Angela Tsioumas (already married to someone else, too) to marry him in Detroit. The Tsioumas union netted Mohammed Hammoud temporary legal residence to operate the terror cash scam.

Hammoud was later convicted on 16 counts that included providing material support to Hezbollah.

• A total of eight Middle Eastern men who plotted to bomb New York landmarks in 1993 — Fadil Abdelgani, Amir Abdelgani, Siddig Ibrahim Siddig Ali, Tarig Elhassan, Abdo Mohammed Haggag, Fares Khallafalla, Mohammed Saleh and Matarawy Mohammed Said Saleh — all obtained legal permanent residence by marrying American citizens.

A year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, homeland security officials cracked a massive illegal alien Middle Eastern marriage fraud ring in a sting dubbed "Operation Broken Vows." Authorities were stunned by the scope of the operations, which stretched from Boston to South Carolina to California.

But marriage fraud remains a treacherous path of least resistance. The waiting period for U.S. citizenship is cut by more than half for marriage visa beneficiaries. Sham marriage monitoring by backlogged homeland security investigators is practically nonexistent.

As former federal immigration official Michael Cutler warned years ago:

"Immigration benefit fraud is certainly one of the major 'dots' that was not connected prior to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and remains a 'dot' that is not really being addressed the way it needs to be in order to secure our nation against criminals and terrorists who understand how important it is for them to 'game' the system as a part of the embedding process."

Jihadists have knowingly and deliberately exploited our lax immigration and entrance policies to secure the rights and benefits of American citizenship while they plot mass murder — and we haven't done a thing to stop them.

Ready To Revolt In New Jersey?


May 4, 2010

Property Taxes: Two states in particular, New Jersey and New York, could use a version of California's much-maligned Proposition 13. Without it, they might start seeing the middle class squeezed out of homes.

What does it take for taxpayers to say, "Enough is enough"? We may soon see that question answered in the stressed-out suburbs around New York City. A perfect storm of recession, cuts in state aid and overspending by schools and local governments is pummeling homeowners who were already paying the nation's stiffest property taxes.

In the big suburban counties in New Jersey and New York, people already paying 8% of their income or more in real estate levies (see table above) are facing new hikes that could push them to the breaking point.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie is trying to balance the state budget by cutting school and municipal aid. The state Senate's budget committee chairman says the plan could add an average of $600, or as much as 8.2%, to property tax bills.

New Yorkers, who already pay local taxes 79% above the national average, are bracing for more pain as the state tries to close a $9.2 billion deficit.

A tax revolt may already be brewing. New Jersey voters have rejected a record 59% of proposed local school district budgets, the first time in 30 years that more than half of those budgets have been turned down.

The immediate problem in both states is the recession and its impact on state government revenues. Cities, counties and schools fall back on property taxes as a safety net when revenues from more economically sensitive income and sales taxes dry up.

The locals are hardly innocent victims. They've been living beyond their means as much as some, though hardly all, homeowners have. As in many other states, pension costs and public salaries are rising faster than inflation or sound fiscal practice would dictate. By one estimate, local governments in New York will have to pay 61% more to cover pension costs in 2011 than they do now.

New Jersey school districts have signed contracts giving teachers raises of about 4%, on average, when the state's schools are among the most expensive in the country in money spent per pupil.

All this profligacy is coming back to bite homeowners, just when they have enough problems of their own. One likely effect of property tax hikes in the current housing market is a new wave of foreclosures as higher tax bills tip the balance for those who are already struggling. Prospective buyers might also be scared away by the monster tax bills they're likely to pay.

Taxpayers in these states are learning that governments can't serve two masters. They can't put the public first as long as they're giving away the store to their employees. Property taxes can't be the last resort of a city or school district with a big pension problem.

California taxpayers faced a situation somewhat like this in the 1970s, and dealt with it through a tax limit initiative that has stayed largely intact to this day. The cause of their pain was different — inflation was then driving up home values and tax assessments — and state government had a big surplus to cushion the loss of property tax revenues.

Voters in California also have the power to put initiatives directly on the ballot. In New Jersey and New York, constitutional tax limits have to go through legislatures before a statewide vote.

Christie, to his credit, is trying to jump-start this process with a proposal to cap property tax increases at 2.5%. And the need for Proposition 13-style relief is as great today as it ever was. Government has a way of growing into its available tax funds. The best medicine for public-sector bloat is a tight lid on its revenues.

Proposition 13 has been widely but wrongly blamed for California's current fiscal problems. In fact, Californians pay higher overall taxes per capita than residents of most other states. Even their property taxes are around the national average.

Problem is, the tax revolt started by Proposition 13, for all its influence on national politics in the Reagan era, ran out of steam in California before it had finished its work. Maybe now it's the turn of New Yorkers and New Jerseyites to pick up the baton.