U.S. immigration officials face serious challenges addressing refugee claims from Somalia, given that country's lack of systematic record keeping throughout its civil war and history of failed governments since 1991. As a result, Somalia deserves to stay on President Donald Trump's travel ban list, argues Todd Bensman in a recent article for the Center for Immigration Studies.
For more than two decades, few Somalis received formal birth certificates, driver's licenses, or other government-issued identification. Under these circumstances, Bensman asks, how could American officials secure a proper identity check or criminal history for any Somali adult seeking asylum in the U.S.?
Last month, federal prosecutors in Tucson, Ariz. charged a married couple - Mohamed Abdirahman and Zeinab Abidrahman Mohammad - with eight counts of making false statements throughout his refugee and legal permanent residency application process.
Zeinab faces three counts of providing false information in support of her husband, but was released on Aug. 10 after the judge did not deem her a danger to the public or a flight risk.
The government claims that Osman used a fake Somali passport and lied about many crucial details, including his real name and nationality. Osman allegedly lied about a relationship with the Somali-based terrorist organization al-Shabaab.
He claimed to have lost his hands after a 2010 terrorist attack before being abducted by al-Shabaab. But prosecutors assert that the couple has provided contradictory accounts at different points in time.
Osman's story eventually unraveled. Speaking with FBI agents last year, Osman acknowledged he was from Ethiopia, that he was recruited by al-Shabaab, and that his brother is an active member of the terrorist organization. He also reportedly admitted that he lost his hands while holding a homemade explosive in 2009.
The government could not definitely prove whether Osman had a criminal record or whether he had participated in terrorist activities, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Beverly Anderson.
These issues may cause some difficulties for the prosecution during the trial, which is set for Sept. 18.
"There can be no doubt that some real Somali citizens have suffered persecution at the hands of the ubiquitously present al Shabaab or that country's military-backed government. Such individuals may well deserve American sanctuary if their stories of suffering and claims of torture if returned could possibly be investigated and verified enough. But, very unfortunately, most involving Somalis probably can't be verified. And so the value of security must be carefully weighed against the value of providing sanctuary," writes Bensman.