On October 10, 2014, Rasmieh Yousef Odeh, 66, was convicted on immigration fraud charges for failing to disclose terrorism conviction to immigration officials. According to the indictment, Odeh was convicted in Israel for her role in the 1969 bombings of a supermarket and the British Consulate in Jerusalem. Those bombings were carried out on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (“PFLP”), a designated terrorist organization. Odeh and her co-conspirators placed multiple bombs at the British Consulate and in a supermarket. One of the bombs placed at the supermarket detonated, killing two people and injuring several others. A bomb placed at the British Consulate caused structural damage to the facility.
Israeli military authorities sentenced Odeh to life imprisonment, but she was released after serving 10 years, as part of a prisoner exchange. After her release, Odeh returned to the West Bank. In 1995, Odeh immigrated to the United States, in spite of her terrorism conviction.
In 2004, the Department of Homeland Security failed to detect that Odeh was arrested, convicted and imprisoned overseas. It’s unclear how this case slipped through the cracks, since the fingerprints and criminal histories of immigrants applying for naturalization are typically subject to close scrutiny. The Department of Homeland Security has a duty to verify the applicants’ criminal history or lack thereof with their countries of origin. Arrests, convictions or imprisonment are considered to be material facts for the U.S. government in determining whether the applicant is qualified to obtain U.S. citizenship.
Any individual who is a member of a “terrorist organization” or who has engaged or engages in terrorism-related activity as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is “inadmissible” (not allowed to enter) the United States and is ineligible for most immigration benefits. It’s highly disturbing that Odeh, a convicted terrorist, was able not only to enter the United States, but also to become an American citizen.
Marlon Miller, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Detroit, said: “When individuals lie on immigration documents, the system is severely undermined and the security of our nation is put at risk.”
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade added: “An individual convicted of a terrorist bombing would not be admitted to the United States if that information was known at the time of arrival … Upon discovery that someone convicted of a terrorist attack is in the United States illegally, we will seek to use our criminal justice system to remove that individual.”
Odeh faces a maximum sentence of 10 years. She will be stripped of her U.S. citizenship and deported from the U.S. after serving her prison term.