October 18, 2019 | From the Federalist
Many who have professionally worried, as did former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, that violent jihadists might illegally cross the United States’ southern border are often sanctimoniously challenged with this: “Name a single U.S. border-crossing immigrant asylum-seeker who ever committed a terrorist attack.”
Introducing Abdulahi Hasan Sharif of Somalia.
In 2011, Sharif had himself smuggled from Somalia through Brazil and Central America. Then he entered the United States over the Mexico-California border and claimed asylum. Sharif went on to Canada, where he allegedly conducted a double vehicle-ramming and stabbing rampage in 2017 in Edmonton, Alberta, that severely injured a police officer and four other people. He was carrying an Islamic State flag in one of the ramming vehicles.
Those who paid attention to this case were too few and far between ever to mention Sharif a year ago when President Trump provoked a denialist media backlash by claiming the border was vulnerable to violent jihadists migrating from distant Muslim-majority countries.
The 32-year-old Sharif is now on public trial in Canada, facing 11 counts of attempted murder, aggravated assault, and dangerous driving. While he occupies a consequential homeland security pedestal of first border-crosser to conduct a jihadi attack in North America, his backstory remains largely unexcavated for learnable lessons to U.S. homeland security. That may or may not change in the coming weeks of a trial.
That Islamic extremists would infiltrate the United States through the southern border is a prospect that professional homeland security authorities have taken seriously since 9/11. Agencies have long invested in countering the perceived border threat. For instance, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations agents are deployed throughout Latin America to disrupt smuggling networks that specialize in transporting foreign citizens from Muslim-majority countries such as Somalia into the United States.
The government labels such migrants “special interest aliens” so they can be flagged to ostensibly undergo enhanced security screenings, such as threat assessment interviews, to which Spanish-speaking people are not subject. As I said during recent field reporting on the migrant trails in Panama and Costa Rica, travelers on U.S. terrorism watch lists have been apprehended at the border or en route in recent years. Perhaps because as many as 20 such suspects a year were caught in various American security nets, none had yet been able to attack in North America – until Sharif.
Trump’s notion that something like this could happen outraged the usual suspects as baseless fearmongering even though dozens of Islamist terrorists successfully snuck over Europe’s external borders while posing as asylum-seeking refugees and these terrorists committed attacks across the continent, such as the devastating attacks in Paris and Brussels. Beyond Sharif, Europe offered much proof of concept.
(Excerpt from the Federalist. Article by Todd Bensman.)