View From Lodi, CA: The Imams and the Religious Visa

Last week`s
FBI probe into the possibility that

two local Lodi men,
U.S. born Hamid Hayat, 24, and
his father, Umer Hayat, 47, might have ties to Al Queda,
should also draw attention to one the nation`s biggest
problems in the

terrorism
war: visa fraud.

Note that
also arrested on "immigration violations" were
two imams, Muhammed Adil Khan, 47, and Shabbir Ahmed,
42, and Khan`s 19-year old son, Mohammad Hassan Adil.

According to
the Lodi News-Sentinel, Khan and Ahmed are in the
United States on religious worker, or R-1, visas. Khan`s
19-year-old son, Hassan Adil, is here on a R-2 visa
issued to religious worker family members. [Lawyer
for three Lodi men arrested and held on immigration
charges blasts FBI
By Andrew Adams ,Jun 14,
2005]

Although the

F.B.I.
refuses to discuss any specifics,
"violations"
historically translates into either
falsifying a visa application or

overstaying
the term of ones visa.

Regardless
of the outcome of these specific Lodi cases that the San
Francisco immigration court will hear within several
weeks, the

religious visa program
has been

rife with fraud
since its creation by Congress in
1990.

Americans
concerned about the war on terrorism should be aware of
the R-1 visa and how it—and other

easily obtained visas
—is abused.

Each year,
thousands of R-1 nonimmigrant visas are issued to
foreigners to come to America to allegedly pursue
religious endeavors. The visas are issued to fill a

supposed shortage
of religious professionals among
the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths.

According to
the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service website,
anyone who

receives a R-1 visa
must demonstrate strong ties to
his home country—supposedly assuring he will return— and
he must also agree to stay for a specific, short-term
period.

But in
reality, the visa holders may not intend to return.

Consider
these examples from the ugly R visa history.

First,

Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman,
the Egyptian cleric who
plotted the

1993 World Trade Center bombing,
came to the U.S. on
a religious visa.

Rahman, who
received his visa

despite being on a terrorist watch list
, ultimately
overstayed his legally permitted time in the country
thus enabling him to perpetrate the WTC attack.

Second, in
its 1999 report titled "Visa Issuance: Issues
Concerning the Religious Worker Program,"
[PDF] the
General Accounting Office discovered active R visa fraud
scams in churches in Colombia, Fiji and Russia.

The G.A.O.
concluded that, "Neither INS or the State Department
knows the extent of the fraud in the religious worker
program."

Third, in
2002, the G.A.O.`s findings were confirmed when the New
York U.S. Attorney`s Office

filed a complaint
against Muslim

Muhammed Khalil,
his son Amil and three others.

The five
were charged with filing false R visa applications on
behalf of 200

Middle Eastern aliens.
Charging $8,000 per
application, Khalil submitted applications that used
false names, fake occupations, non-existent universities
and bogus religious training certificates.

Khalil and
his associates were arrested. The whereabouts of most of
the others among the 200 who received religious visas
remain unknown.

Fourth and
most recently, according to a 42-count indictment made
by the federal grand jury in Dallas and

unsealed in July 2004,
the Holy Land Foundation for
Relief and Development and

its leaders
were charged with funding the terrorist
organization HAMAS as well as money laundering and tax
evasion.

The HLF,
then the largest Muslim charity

operating in the US
, had its

assets frozen
in

December 2001.
Four of its employees were in the
U.S. on R visas.

In light of
the Lodi case, some focus on the R-2 visa given to
immediate family members is worthwhile.

Anyone who
is in the U.S. on an R-2 visa is free to marry. If he

marries an American citizen,
then he is on the path
to a

green card.

If he
marries a non-U.S. citizen, the

couple`s children
are

American citizens.
Either way, the R-2 visa holder
has taken the first step toward American citizenship.

An R-2 visa holder`s flexibility is
particularly important considering that Osama bin Laden
has repeatedly stated that the most important thing in
his

jihad mission
to

destroy America
is to

recruit U.S. passport holders
.

Readers who are interested in
learning more about visa fraud should read syndicated
columnist Michelle Malkin`s 2002 book, "Invasion: How
America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals and Other
Foreign Menaces on Our Shores"
and the 2002 Center
for Immigration Studies report titled

"The Open Door: How Militant Islamic Terrorists Entered
and Remained in the U.S. 1993-2001."

(Author`s note: much of the
information in this column came from

Michelle Malkin`s website
.)

Regarding the R-1 visa, VDARE.COM`s
own

Juan Mann
echoed the findings of the G.A.O. report
when he told me:

"No one ever gets deported
who overstays his R-1 visa, since there`s no way for the
government to ever know if they go out of status . . .
unless they come to the attention of law enforcement
some other way…like a

D.U.I.
or

attending a terrorist camp
in Pakistan."

No matter what the truth is in the
Lodi case, the

Bush administration
owes it to America to tighten up
on religious visas. The R-1 visa provides

easy access
into the country for people who may be
intent on harming us.

The U.S. can get along perfectly
well without the R-1 visa. But we may not be able to

survive
if the government continues to issue them.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the


Lodi News-Sentinel
.