In mid-January, a British national named Malik Faisal Akram took four Americans hostage inside a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. Thankfully, the hostages were rescued after a dramatic 11-hour standoff, and Akram was killed in the process by FBI agents.
The saga that unfolded in Texas, however, should be a wake-up call. America has plenty of bigotry, antisemitism, and violence without importing more from terrorists abroad. We need to re-examine misguided policies that have resulted in dangerous loopholes in our immigration system.
As the story unfolded, it became clear that Akram had a radical past and lengthy criminal record and was even monitored by British intelligence. Which begs the question: how did Akram make it through immigration screening and vetting protocols meant to prevent people like him from entering the United States?
According to reporting by CBS News:
“Akram came alone to the United States on December 29, 2021, through the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. His entrance into U.S. was approved by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA, … at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Tourism visas are not required for British travelers planning to stay in the United States for less than three months.”
Malik Faisal Akram’s ability to enter the United States without raising serious alarms should have lawmakers demanding answers regarding our Visa Waiver Program, which permits citizens of participating countries to travel to the U.S. for business or tourism for stays of up to 90 days without a visa.
Yes, we want tourism and business travel from friendly allies of the United States, but we can’t be naive to think those countries don’t harbor dangerous actors who wish to harm us.
In 2017, President Trump issued a proclamation to enhance vetting protocols of foreign nationals entering our country. The proclamation called on federal agencies to “take all necessary and appropriate steps to encourage foreign governments to improve their information-sharing and identity-management protocols and practices and to regularly share identity and threat information with our immigration screening and vetting systems.”
Unfortunately, President Biden promptly revoked Trump’s proclamation and other executive orders on immigration almost immediately after taking office, which has led some media outlets like the Washington Examiner to question whether Biden’s loose approach to vetting foreign nationals could have contributed to Akram entering the United States.
“Despite the commonsense, straightforward nature of [President Trump’s] proclamation to enhance vetting of foreign nationals, Biden revoked it along with other immigration executive orders on his first day in office.
The Biden administration has taken additional steps to accelerate vetting over the past year, including waiving the in-person interview requirement for certain immigrant visa applications.
Could the Biden administration’s reckless approach to immigration and border security have benefited Akram? It is certainly possible.”
One thing is certain: we need more screening and vetting of foreign nationals, not less. President Biden’s virtue-signaling on immigration policies could have calamitous consequences.