Last year, media outlets rushed to condemn President Donald Trump and his administration’s claims that terrorists were crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
While the precise number may have been exaggerated, there was at least one major piece of evidence that terrorists could use the U.S. immigration system to illegally cross the border from Mexico and commit an act of terrorism: The fact that someone had done it.
Just one year before the Trump claims, in 2017, Abdulahi Hasan Sharif allegedly rammed into Edmonton police constable Mick Chernyk. Sharif then exited his vehicle and stabbed Chernyk. Sharif fled, later rented a U-Haul truck, and led police on a chase during which he drove into four pedestrians. The attack was called an act of terrorism, as Sharif had an ISIS flag inside the vehicle he used to attack Chernyk, according to Canada’s CBC News.
Sharif’s trial began last week, but has received little coverage in the media.
Sharif is a Somali national who came to the U.S. illegally in 2011 after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The CBC reported that while the “vast majority of Somalis arrived in the United States as refugees” and were “screened and approved for refugee status before entering the United States,” that is not how Sharif came to America. It appears he traveled to South America from Africa, and then illegally entered the U.S. It is unclear whether or not he made an asylum claim after entering the U.S. Asylum claims made after entering the U.S. are usually denied.
Either way, an immigration judge ordered Sharif to be deported from the U.S. to Somalia. Sharif did not appeal the order but was never deported. Instead, he made his way to Canada, where he allegedly committed the terrorist attack in 2017.
As The Federalist reported, Sharif is now on public trial for the attack, but his trial is receiving little media attention.
“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,” wrote Todd Bensman, a senior national security fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies.
As Bensman explained, the prospect that Islamic extremists would enter the U.S. illegally via its southern border has been taken seriously by authorities at the Department of Homeland Security, which overseas Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). From Bensman:
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.
Sharif currently faces “11 counts of attempted murder, aggravated assault, and dangerous driving,” according to Bensman.