Reporting from San Diego — U.S. border authorities have arrested a controversial Muslim cleric who was deported from Canada to Tunisia three years ago and was caught earlier this month trying to sneak into California in the trunk of a BMW, according to court documents.
Said Jaziri, the former imam of a Muslim congregation in Montreal, was hidden in a car driven by a San Diego-area man who was pulled over by U.S. Border Patrol agents near an Indian casino east of San Diego on Jan. 11. Jaziri had allegedly paid a Tijuana-based smuggling group $5,000 to get him across the border near Tecate, saying he wanted to be taken to a “safe place anywhere in the U.S.”
National Post – January 27, 2011
A controversial imam who was deported to Tunisia from Canada in 2007 is in U.S. custody after being discovered in the trunk of a BMW shortly after crossing over from Mexico. Said Jaziri, 43, was one of two illegal aliens apprehended on Jan. 11 just east of San Diego, said Steven Pitts, a U.S. Border Patrol spokesman.
Canada revoked refugee status and deported the Muslim cleric, who encouraged demonstrations in Montreal against the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, after discovering that he had concealed the fact he had served jail time in France for assault.
US intelligence officials learned more about Abdulmutallab’s links to al-Qaida during his flight to Detroit, and intended on questioning him when he landed.
According to law enforcement, had the information been compiled sooner, he could have been prevented from boarding in Amsterdam. According to an administration official however, the information would not have motivated further scrutiny.
This highlights the complexity of counterterrorism and border security systems: because of current protocol, foreign visitors face greater scrutiny upon arriving in the US than they do getting on planes in the first place. There is also a great deal of information about passengers that is only compiled shortly before flights, in a comprehensive list called a manifest. It was a review of the manifest that revealed red flags on Abdulmutallab.
Senators announced on Thursday that they had reached an agreement on immigration reform that would constitute the biggest change in immigration law and policy in over 20 years. The bill would strengthen border patrol while creating a path toward legalization for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States. Permission to immigrate would be granted to candidates according to a merit-based point system that rewards job skills, education and English language proficiency. The employment-based system is a deviation from the current family-based immigration policy. Proponents claim that family ties will continue to be honored as individuals with relatives within the U.S. would be favored over those without. Critics argue that close family members will continue to be separated because of the proposed policy.