When a 29-year-old immigrant from Uzbekistan murdered eight innocent people on Tuesday by driving a rented truck down a bicycle path in Lower Manhattan, I asked myself an important question: How did radical Islamic terrorist Sayfullo Saipov get into the U.S. in the first place? I soon learned the disturbing answer; he took advantage of a little known but dangerous visa program that should be canceled immediately, if not sooner.
Saipov entered the U.S. legally in 2010 under the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which is as weird as it sounds because it’s designed to grant visas — thousands of visas — to people from “underrepresented” countries. Saipov shouted, “Allahu Akhbar!” as he mowed down riders on a bike path on a sunny afternoon in New York City and then asked to display an ISIS flag in his hospital room, where he’s recovering from a gunshot wound delivered by a brave NYC police officer. For the record, San Bernardino terrorist Tashfeen Malik, from Pakistan, was another diversity visa recipient.
New York police spokesmen said Saipov followed “almost to a T” ISIS instructions on how to carry out terrorist attacks. President Trump, who should have kept his mouth shut, said Saipov deserves the death penalty, and I agree. But Trump’s injudicious comment will make the death penalty less likely.
The Saipov case reminded me of a Reno/Sparks murder case involving another immigrant, Luis Menendez-Cordero, who came here legally from El Salvador, which is headquarters for the ultra-violent MS-13 gang. I was astonished when I learned Menendez is a legal immigrant and asked myself how a U.S. Embassy visa officer could have issued a visa to someone with gang signs tattooed on his face.
While I sympathize with busy consular officers who work long visa lines, they should take enough time to determine whether a visa applicant is a bonafide tourist, a gang-banger or a potential terrorist. When I served in Mexico City in the 1970s visa officers had about one minute to make that life-or-death decision.
Of course Menendez was welcomed in Reno, which has declared itself to be a “welcoming” (i.e. sanctuary) city for immigrants, legal and illegal. “Open borders” advocates continue putting out happy stories about illegal immigrants who work hard, take care of their families and obey our laws, except for our immigration laws.
Menendez was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life prison terms last month for killing two rival gang members at a party in Sparks in 2010. Both victims were shot to death by Menendez, who told police he was elsewhere when gunfire erupted. Following the double murder he fled to El Salvador, where he was arrested in 2015 and extradited to the U.S. on condition he wouldn’t face the death penalty.
Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have vowed to crack down on MS-13 and illegal immigration much to the chagrin of open borders advocates, who don’t believe in enforcing our immigration laws despite serious crimes committed by illegal immigrants like 45-year-old Jose’ Garcia Zarate, who gunned down 32-year-old Kate Steinle on the San Francisco waterfront in 2015. Garcia is currently on trial in San Francisco.
I’m pleased to report that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has already arrested almost 100,000 criminal illegals so far this year, a 43 percent increase over last year’s deportation rate. In September, ICE conducted a nationwide sweep dubbed Operation Safe City that resulted in more than 450 arrests of criminal illegal immigrants in a dozen cities. I hope Las Vegas and Reno are next. Let’s deport bad guys who don’t belong here, and have no right to be here.
Guy W. Farmer worked on immigration issues during his U.S. Foreign Service career.