Break the Chain, Protect the American Public

On Monday December 11, 2017, Akayed Ullah set off two explosive devices in a busy pedestrian tunnel connecting subway lines and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Fortunately, the homemade bombs failed to fully detonate and Ullah was the only person seriously injured. Had he succeeded in fully triggering the bombs, it is likely that the number of casualties would have been significant.

Ullah is a Bangladeshi national who entered the U.S. in 2011 in the F43 immigrant visa category. F43 is the code assigned to aliens who are the child of a brother or sister of a U.S. citizen.

Yes, you read that correctly, there is actually a visa category for the nieces and nephews of U.S. citizens. And Ullah’s case demonstrates two key problems with our current immigration system: chain migration and poor vetting.

Chain migration refers to the way that foreign nationals are permitted to immigrate to the U.S. The vast majority of lawful permanent residents who move to the United States are admitted on the basis of a family ties, rather than job skills or other objective criteria. The Immigration and Nationality Act sets out a list of qualifying family relationships. Provided that an alien can prove a qualifying relationship, and pass security screening, he/she is eligible to receive a family-based green card.

There is no limit on the number of relatives a particular alien can sponsor. And once a sponsored relative receives a green card, he/she becomes eligible to sponsor more family members. But it doesn’t end there. Even those foreigners who obtain a green card through employment, refugee status or the visa lottery become eligible to request lawful permanent residence for their relatives. Nearly a half million people relocate to the U.S. through chain migration each year.

Chain migration further taxes an already strained immigration vetting system. It’s generally easier to conduct background checks on people qualified to work in highly-skilled professions. They typically have interactions with home country’s government, educational credentials and a history of employment – all of which can be used to help verify information contained in immigration applications. That’s why merit-based immigration systems improve national security, in addition to improving the economy.

And it’s virtually impossible to adequately vet applicants from countries like Bangladesh, now matter how they apply to enter the U.S. Limited government infrastructure, archaic record-keeping systems, and a lack of technology mean that it is difficult to obtain information on immigration applicants. And the information that is available is often unreliable.

Akayed Ullah is only the latest in a long line of immigrant terrorists who relied on a family relationship to access the United States. If we want to avoid more attacks on innocent Americans, the U.S. must end chain migration and refuse to admit any immigrant that it cannot properly vet. It’s time to break the chain and protect the American public.

About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.

1 Comment

  1. avatar

    It’s not just the plots where something actually occurs. It also the ones that are broken up before the person can act, and those plots outweigh the ones we hear about, by a large factor. Generally, they end up as a short column on the second page of the newspaper and are generally ignored by the broadcast media. There was a plot broken up several months ago that involved bombing the NY subways.

    It’s great that they are broken up, but there are two problems. One is the ones that succeed, like the guy who mowed down bike riders in NYC. The second problem is the huge cost of investigating and preventing the others. Notice that Japan and many other countries like those in Eastern Europe don’t have these problems? It’s because they don’t let these people IN.

    The media has had a bad couple of weeks with all their stories that they later had to correct. Not retract, but “correct”, because retraction implies the complete invalidity of the stories, which they have usually carried on all day about. Then their “corrections” get 5% of the time they spent spreading a falsehood. Tired of being called fake news? Then stop being so one sided, and eager to out scoop everyone on the latest anti-Trump story.