Tashfeen Malik, one of the terrorists in the San Bernardino shooting, got into the U.S. partially thanks to a “sloppily handled” visa application, according to Rep. Bob Goodlatte. The Republican Chair of the House Judiciary Committee is using the investigation to write new legislation to strengthen the current requirements for visa applicants. If Goodlatte’s future bill makes it into law, it could mean a lot more red tape for people coming to live in the U.S.
According to the Washington Post, the investigation uncovered that there was insufficient evidence that Tashfeen Malik, a 29-year-old Pakistani national, met with her future husband and co-shooter, Syed Rizwan Farook, before she came to America — a key requirement for the K-1 fiancée visa Malik received.
Goodlatte called the oversight “unacceptable.”
“Visa security is critical to national security, and it’s unacceptable that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services did not fully vet Malik’s application and instead sloppily approved her visa.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) checked and approved the application before sending it to the State Department. According to the Los Angeles Times, DHS hasn’t commented on the visa.
The State Department, on the other hand, has defended its handling of Tashfeen Malik’s case. Spokesperson Elizabeth Kennedy Trudeau said in an interview that all procedures were followed correctly.
“All required procedures were followed in the K-1 visa case for Ms. Malik. There were no indications of any ill intent at the time that the visa was issued.”
Tashfeen Malik offered two pieces of evidence that the couple had previously met. The first was a written statement from Farook. The second was a copy of two passport pages, one from Tashfeen Malik’s passport and the other from Farook’s. The pages were supposed to confirm that they were both in Saudi Arabia at the same time.
The problem is that the page from Tashfeen Malik’s passport was partially illegible, making it impossible for the immigration officers to confirm if the two were both in the country at the same time. They were able to read that she arrived in Saudi Arabia on June 4, but there’s no way of knowing when she left.
On Farook’s side, he appeared to have been in the country October 1 to 20, meaning that Malik would have been forced to overstay her 60-day visa.
According to Goodlatte, “the immigration official reviewing Malik’s application requested more evidence to ensure the two met in person but it was never provided.”
He added that the application was approved anyway. Likewise, even if the passports confirmed they were in the same country at the same time, it wouldn’t necessarily prove they had met in person.
Once in the country, Tashfeen Malik and her partner plotted and carried out a mass shooting that killed 14 people in San Bernardino on December 2. The attack resurrected a number of political debates, including gun control and immigration reform.
Republicans have endorsed plans to strengthen immigration controls and even deny access to Syrian asylum seekers, despite a government pledge to open America’s doors to about 75,000 applicants from the war-torn country. On the extreme end, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump even proposed a ban on all Muslim immigrants.
Rep. Goodlatte is working on legislation that would strengthen immigration checks but could potentially violate the principles of freedom of speech. One proposal is to mandate in-person interviews for people applying for fiancée visas. More controversially, the representative wants officials to thoroughly check employment and educational history and investigate social media accounts.
A private post on Facebook from Tashfeen Malik showed she was dedicated to the Islamic State, but the Department of Homeland Security has always hesitated about using social media information.
[Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]