Republican Congressman Paul Gosar wants Homeland Security officials to explain to him why Abdullatif Aldosary -- the Coolidge resident accused of detonating an "explosive device" outside the Social Security Administration building in Casa Grande last week -- has been allowed to stay in the United States.
"It appears to the Congressman that a known terrorist was allowed to travel freely in Arizona and was allegedly able to engage in terrorism more than a year after DHS had already determined he engaged in terrorism activity," Gosar's chief of staff Thomas Van Flein wrote in a letter to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services official.
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The simple answer is that Aldosary is not a "known terrorist." It becomes complicated due to the complexities of federal immigration laws.
Gosar's office actually learned of Aldosary in 2011, when Aldosary -- an Iraqi refugee -- requested help obtaining a green card. This letter from Gosar's office says Aldosary was denied "pursuant to the terrorism related grounds of inadmissibility."
That statement, while true, doesn't tell the whole story.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement provided a statement to New Times, explaining that the denial of a permanent-resident status for Aldosary was "due to his participation in an uprising against Iraqi Government forces in Basra in March, 1991 during the Gulf War."
Two weeks prior to that uprising, President George H. W. Bush specifically asked for "the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside..." and a radio broadcast in Iraq run by the U.S. government also encouraged the Iraqi people to overthrow him. (Background on that here.)
That said, there's no real way that the United States would actually consider Aldosary a "terrorist" based on his acting in accordance with the U.S. government's wishes. So, how did the "terrorist" label land on Aldosary?
As the letter to Gosar in 2011 explained, Aldosary was denied on the basis of legislation passed by Congress, which established "Terrorism-Related Inadmissibility Grounds."
Put more emphasis on the related than the terrorism.
"The [Immigration and Nationality Act] defines terrorist activity quite expansively such that the term can apply to persons and actions not commonly thought of as terrorists and to actions not commonly thought of as terrorism," the USCIS website explains. "Significantly, there is no exception under the law for 'freedom fighters,' so most rebel groups would be considered to be engaging in terrorist activity even if fighting against an authoritarian regime."
Along those lines, Aldosary now qualifies for an exemption to this label, based on a memo Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made public last month.
"On August 17, 2012, following consultation with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security...exercised her discretionary authority not to apply most terrorism-related inadmissibility grounds to certain aliens for participation in the Iraqi uprisings against the government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq from March 1 through April 5, 1991," the memo says.
Although Aldosary's application for a green card was denied last year, before this exemption was created, a government official tells New Times that Aldosary's case was recently reopened for meeting this exemption.
Obviously, the alleged bombing of a Casa Grande Social Security Administration office doesn't help Aldosary's case, but Gosar's letter contains more questions, which aren't related to Aldosary being a "known terrorist."
His other questions ask why Aldosary wasn't previously deported give his criminal history, which includes an aggravated-harassment conviction, as well as a parole violation.
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ICE's answer is that legal reviews determined he wasn't removable.
Remember, Aldosary's in the country legally, and has refugee status. He'd likely have to be convicted of some more-serious crimes to face deportation. For example, ICE has already lodged a detainer against him, which means that he could face deportation if he's convicted in the bombing case.
One last point, for clarity -- Aldosary's alleged actions in the bombing have not been publicly called an act of terrorism by authorities, although we've previously noted that the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force is involved in the investigation.
The letters from Gosar can be found here.