A refugee was arrested this week in Houston and now faces federal terrorism charges. Authorities say Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan reportedly tried to help ISIS by providing resources to the Islamic State.
The New York Times reports that Al Hardan, 24, a Palestinian living in the Houston area with his wife and child, entered the U.S. as a refugee in 2009. He was granted permanent citizenship in 2011, and allegedly began sending ISIS materiel support in 2014. The Office of Homeland Security arrested Al Hardan on Wednesday, but didn’t provide many details until his arraignment.
At 10 a.m. on Friday, Al Hardan appeared in court for his arraignment in downtown Houston, where he learned he was being charged with federal offenses. According to a six-page indictment unsealed on Thursday, the refugee is accused of lying about his connections with ISIS. Al Hardan claimed that he had nothing to do with the terrorist group, but authorities claim he indeed connected himself to both ISIS members and sympathizers. He now faces three felony charges of procurement of citizenship or naturalization unlawfully, attempting to provide materiel support to ISIS, and making false statements to authorities.
Yahoo! News reports that another refugee, Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, 23, bragged online about skills he learned as a teenager, fighting in Syria, including how to sneak into Syria and use weapons. Al-Jayab began chatting with Al Hardan online and promised that he would teach his new friend how to fight with weapons. Consequently, Al-Jayab was also arrested for making false statements on his involvement with terrorism.
The two arrests were made after numerous Americans had already expressed concerns about allowing refugees into the country, especially after the ISIS-claimed November, 2015, attacks in Paris, that left over 130 people dead. According to immigration attorney Michael Wildes, the process of determining which refugees support ISIS and the ones who don’t is extremely taxing.
“This is an extraordinary snapshot of what we’re facing now — the challenge of vetting individuals and maintaining the beacon of hope that America has been for the world over.”
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz repeated his thoughts on allowing refugees in the country after he learned of Al Hardan’s arrest, stating that the U.S. shouldn’t let any refugees to seek safety in the nation.
“I commend the law enforcement for apprehending these two individuals, but their apprehensions raise the immediate question: Who else is there? What are they planning next?”
Wildes, however, disagrees. He reminded the public that the U.S. should maintain its status as a safe retreat for refugees to come to.
“We cannot forget that legacy that we have for immigration. We are a safe haven. Our Founding Fathers established this nation with a notion that it will be a place for safety.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson released a statement indicating that U.S. authorities are diligently working towards ending international terrorism.
“International terrorism is a high priority of my office. We worked closely with the FBI Terrorism Task Force to ensuring the safety of the public in these matters. We will do everything we can to make sure cases of this ilk are brought to justice.”
Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan faces three felony charges of procurement of citizenship or naturalization unlawfully, attempting to provide material support to ISIS, and making false statements to authorities. If found guilty, his sentencing may include up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
[Photo Courtesy of AP/Bob Levey]