The Dallas-based office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has
filed a highly unusual civil court motion to strip a wealthy North Texas
businessman of his American citizenship and eventually deport him to his
native Middle East.
CBS-11 News has learned that federal authorities have invoked a rarely-used
federal statute – mainly used in past decades to deport former Nazis – to
de-naturalize native Palestinian Rasmi Khader Almallah. The government’s
“Complaint to Revoke Naturalization” claims Almallah paid a woman for a
“sham marriage” in 1981 that helped him gain permanent residency and then
American citizenship in 1988.
But sources tell CBS-11 the motive behind the government effort is
Almallah’s long association with the Richardson-based Holy Land Foundation,
which the Bush administration shuttered in 2001 and accused of
clandestinely providing funds to help the designated terrorist group Hamas
deploy suicide bombers against Israeli civilians.
Almallah, since remarried, the father of seven U.S.-born children, and the
founding owner of the booming 50-store Carpet Mills of America chain,
served as a board member of the Holy Land Foundation, according to a 2000
foundation tax return”¦
Since 9-11, Attorney General John Ashcroft’s Department of Justice has
invoked a variety of legal means, short of time-consuming – and politically
risky – criminal charges, to remove Middle Easterners suspected of ties to
terrorism or its financial infrastructure. The government, for instance,
has deported several former Holy Land Foundation employees for immigration
law violations in recent years, rather than criminally prosecute them.
In the recent deportation case against former Holy Land Foundation
fundraiser Aynan Ismail, covered exclusively by CBS-11, government
attorneys actually cited terrorism as grounds to send him to Jordan, but
never attempted to try him on criminal charges. He was deported last month.
Government officials in Dallas have openly acknowledged the Bush
administration’s use of alternative means to get suspected Middle Eastern
terrorists out of the country.
Immigration law experts tell CBS-11 News that use of the de-naturalization
statutes has been rare. Prior to the 9-11 terror attacks, the statutes were
invoked mainly as a means to deport former Nazis who were discovered to
have illegally gained American citizenship by lying on application
materials about their pasts.
But since 9-11, although still very rare, a number of denaturalization
lawsuits have been brought against Middle Eastern Americans suspected of
Immigration experts say the proceedings against him may fit an emerging
government pattern in which de-naturalization becomes a more frequently
used weapon in the Bush administration’s domestic war on terror.
“Since 9-11, we’re seeing more prosecutions and more attempts to take away
people’s citizenship on the basis of memberships in organizations,” Dallas
immigration attorney Kenneth Wincorn said.