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.