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By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials continue to remove non-citizens from the U.S. with known terrorist ties after lengthy court proceedings.
ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations officials work nationwide to apprehend and remove noncitizens “who pose a threat to our national security, public safety, and border security,” ICE explains. The process often takes years and multiple court hearings in addition to prison or jail time served by the alleged criminals.
On June 13, ICE ERO Denver Field Office officials removed an Afghan man from the U.S. with reported ties to known terrorists.
Mohammed Wali Zazi, 66, was convicted of visa fraud, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to obstruct justice in February 2012, ICE reports. He was sentenced to 54 months in prison and upon release from prison removal proceedings began.
His son, Najibullah Zazi, a member of al-Qa’ida, was convicted of conspiring to bomb the New York subway in 2009.
Despite his son’s conviction, Zazi entered the U.S. in August 1990, and later became a naturalized citizen in 2007. However, by 2018, a federal judge in Colorado revoked his naturalization and canceled his Certificate of Naturalization. He appeared before two immigrations judges in Colorado, the latest of whom ordered his removal to Afghanistan in February 2022.
On May 6, ICE ERO Buffalo Field Office officials removed a Salvadoran national with a criminal record, including providing material support to an undesignated terrorist organization.
Jose Guzman Moreno, 62, was removed from the U.S. and turned over to Salvadoran officials upon his arrival.
He’d illegally entered the U.S. at an unknown date and unknown location, ICE reported. In June 2019, ICE ERO officials encountered Guzman Moreno at a Suffolk County Jail in New York, where he was being detained on local sexual abuse charges. He was convicted in January 2020 for sexual abuse in the first degree and sentenced to three years in prison. His criminal record includes two convictions for driving while intoxicated and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the first and second degrees in Nassau County.
On April 19, ICE ERO Chicago Field Office officials removed Bosnia-Herzegovina national Ramiz Zijad Hodzic, 47, who was convicted on two counts of providing material support to a terrorist. He was turned over to authorities upon his arrival to Sarajevo.
Although he entered the U.S. legally in 1998, ICE reports, he was arrested by the FBI in 2015 for a weapons offense. In 2019 he was convicted, and a federal judge signed a removal order at the time of his sentencing. After his criminal sentence was completed, ICE ERO detained him in November 2021 and began processing his removal.
On April 21, ICE ERO El Paso Field Office officials removed a Turkish citizen suspected of providing support to terrorist organizations.
Volkan Gogebakan, 31, was removed from the U.S. and handed over to Turkish officials upon his arrival to Istanbul, Turkey.
Mr. Gogebakan illegally entered the U.S. last September near the Bridge of the Americas Port of Entry in El Paso, ICE reports. He was arrested by immigration authorities, processed and charged with unlawful entry, and underwent removal proceedings.
“Dangerous foreign criminals are a threat to homeland and border security as well as public safety,” Kenneth Genalo, acting field office director for ERO El Paso, said when Gogebakan’s removal was announced. “ICE is committed to keeping our community safe from individuals with any kind of nexus to terrorist organizations.”
On Jan. 10, ICE ERO Philadelphia Field Office officials removed an Uzbekistan citizen convicted of providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Jamshid Muhtorov, 45, was removed and turned over to local officials in Uzbekistan upon his arrival. He was found guilty in federal court in June 2018 of providing material support to the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), a designated foreign terrorist organization.
He was first charged in January 2012 after being arrested at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago where he attempted to board a flight to Istanbul. He was later indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver and convicted after a 19-day trial. The sentencing judge described Muhtorov’s support for the IJU, including swearing allegiance to it and reportedly telling his eight-year-old daughter to “pray for your Daddy to become a martyr…,” according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.
Last June, Muhtorov was arrested by ERO officials upon release from prison. One month later, an immigration judge in Pennsylvania ordered his removal.
Removals continue after U.S. Border Patrol agents have so far apprehended at least 50 individuals with terrorist connections at the southern border in fiscal 2022.