PJ MEDIA, BY TODD BENSMAN, JANUARY 13, 2016:
Until her 2013 arrest in Texas, the Mexico City-based Nepalese smuggler Rakhi Gauchan was one of the most prolific kingpin smugglers of Islamic world migrants that federal agents had seen in years.
During her long career, Gauchan delivered scores of Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Indians to the Texas and Arizona borders. Ten or more every month, according to court filings from her case. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “special interest alien” (SIA) hunters were glad to finally remove her from the borderlands, because Gauchan confided to an undercover government agent that she believed a Pakistani client she had smuggled into Arizona was a bonafide terrorist. ICE agents rushed to track down the Pakistani, learning he was quite real and living in America,having gained political asylum.
They learned he had come from the embattled Kashmir region of India and Pakistan, a notorious magnet for the global Islamic jihadists. Court records conspicuously omit reference to whether the agents confirmed Gauchan’s hunch. However, they did disclose that Gauchan had regularly helped clients like the suspected Pakistani terrorist obtain the most cherished of illegal immigration door prizes: U.S. political asylum enabling permanent residency and American citizenship.
The Gauchan case, and other SIA smuggling prosecution cases I examined as part of my Naval Postgraduate School thesis research on illegal immigration from Muslim nations, demonstrate that these smugglers literally count on the ease of defrauding the U.S. asylum system to buoy illicit businesses that make terrorist border infiltration possible.
Improving America’s ability to detect and prosecute asylum fraud would help devastate SIA smuggling, and would reduce the chance that any terrorist border infiltrator can stay and plot with legal top cover.
America’s ineffectiveness at detecting asylum fraud is embroidered into long-haul SIA migrant smuggling to the U.S.-Mexico border from the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. Illegal immigration by air, land, and sea to the U.S.-Mexico border bears an uncanny similarity to how up to six of the November 13 Paris terrorists reached, and then breached, the common external European border. They claimed asylum under false identities to mount their attacks.
For these reasons, asylum fraud is a fourth key attackable fail point of the SIA smuggling networks. (Click these for the three fail points previously covered here at PJ Media: the catch, rest and release policies of Mexico and Panama; Latin America’s foreign diplomatic stations in Islamic terrorism-spawning countries; and the kingpin smugglers.) I offer this research for the day American homeland security authorities decide they want to reduce the chance of a Paris-like border infiltration attack here.
The Gauchan case is one of many that show how SIA smugglers rely on asylum fraud. But it is instructive to first know a little about the asylum system:
When an immigrant reaches the U.S. border, they can go to any official and verbally request asylum. That alone triggers the system. A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer will conduct a 45-minute interview (usually by telephone) to determine whether the migrant’s story on just its face merits a positive “credible fear” determination that they may suffer discrimination or political persecution if returned to their home countries.Almost everyone gets the “credible fear” thumbs-up.
This then triggers a legal asylum process that typically stretches over months and often years. With their hearing dates in hand, some portion of credible-fear SIAs may or may not undergo FBI security interrogations.
All but a very few hard cases then get released on bond with permission to work until the hearing months and years down the road.
So an asylum claim at the southwestern border often provides the only chance for SIAs to gain legal status and in-country time for … whatever. Most importantly, the asylum process’s warm embrace ensures that SIAs avoid the devastating loss of smuggling investment fortunes a deportation portends.
For those reasons, SIA smugglers like Gauchan are compelled to incorporate the promise of asylum into the services they sell on the front end, and to become arm-chair experts in how to game the system. Working the asylum process helps not only to ensure future client recruitment (when the folks back home learn their predecessors gained asylum) but also basic business continuity.
This helps explain why Gauchan, and many other SIA smugglers, routinely instructed clients to claim asylum as soon as they could find a U.S. border official.
Familiar with what the credible fear interviewers needed to hear, she provided clients with the stories of woe and persecution most likely to play well. She undoubtedly gave a good whopper to the Pakistani she thought was a terrorist.
But Gauchan also knew when the system would exclude one of her clients. For instance, Italy had already rejected one Pakistani client, an automatic disqualifier. But knowing this, and also that American and Italian intelligence share information, Gauchan advised her client not to tell about the Italian denial, and to change the story he had used in Italy.
We have known for a long time how easy it is to get away with asylum fraud, and yet nothing has been done to improve detection or the prosecution numbers. A 2008 GAO survey of asylum officers showed that 75 percent believed “they needed additional training to help them detect fraud, conduct security checks and assess the credibility of asylum seekers.” In 2014, four Republican congressmen asked the GAO to investigate the asylum process after a leaked DHS report showed that up to 70 percent of cases contained proven or possible fraud.
It would take no professional acting experience for an ISIS terrorist from war-torn Syria and Iraq to game the system with a story of woe. Other Islamic terrorists already have shown how easy it is. I have many examples, but I’ll leave you with the one involving the Texas-prosecuted Somali smuggler Ahmad Muhammad Dhakane, who until 2008 ran a smuggling network from Brazil to Texas.
According to court records, Dhakane always instructed his clients in the art of how to fraudulently claim asylum to American authorities upon arrival.
Dhakane would later admit he had transported seven Somali jihadists over the southwestern border equipped with his asylum fraud advice, sending the FBI on a mad nationwide scramble to find them all.
They never could.
When Dhakane decided to retire from smuggling in 2008, he crossed from Mexico into Texas and claimed asylum himself based on a fraudulent persecution tale that omitted his own extensive terrorism ties. Prosecutors eventually convicted Dhakane of asylum fraud for (naturally) not revealing that he had been a guerrilla fighter for the terrorist group AIAI, and that he had worked as a ranking “hawaladar,” a facilitator of transferring terrorist funding, for senior AIAI leaders — one of whom was his uncle.
The Dhakane asylum fraud prosecution is a rarity.
I hope it doesn’t take a Paris-style attack occurring in Houston or Phoenix to make homeland security leadership reverse course on this fail point.