WASHINGTON: The couple who killed 14 people in a mass shooting in California are US citizen of Pakistani origin Syed Farook and his Pakistani wife Tashfeen Malik, who came to the United States last year on a fiancée visa.
Of the 61 million temporary visitors to the United States in 2013, about 26,000 arrived in the United States on a K1, or fiancé, visa including just 272 Pakistani nationals, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Farook, who was born in the US, and Malik traveled to the United States in July 2014, Farook with his US passport and Malik with her K1 visa inside her Pakistani passport, said the assistant FBI director in charge of the Los Angeles office, David Bowdich.
The visa allows foreigners to come to the United States to marry the person with whom they are engaged.
The wedding must take place within 90 days of their arrival, which appears to have been the case for Farook and Malik.
Farook applied for a green card permanent residency for his wife in September 2014, according to The New York Times.
In order to obtain a fiancé visa, applicants must usually prove the relationship has lasted at least two years.
The foreigner must namely provide police certificates from all the countries where he or she has lived for more than six months since the age of 16.
For Malik, that would have included Saudi Arabia, where she had lived.
Poor track record
Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, confirmed that Malik’s file had been checked against counter terrorism databases.
But critics seeking a slowdown in the influx of migrants from the Middle East say the K1 visa is a security flaw that must be resolved quickly.
“The K1 visa is practically never denied,” Center for Immigration Studies legal policy analyst Jon Feere told Agence France-Presse.
“Many of our visa programs have been exploited by terrorists over the years, whether student or tourist visas.”
Feere’s group, which seeks limits on immigration, has the ear of conservatives in the US Congress.
“Our government has a track record that isn’t that great,” Feere said, citing DHS figures, according to which 98 percent of K1 visas were granted last year.
“They have difficulty vetting people coming here on visas.”
The Federation for American Immigration Reform, which also backs selective border closures, noted the huge scale of the task at hand.
“Vetting that many people, even in a first-world nation, would present a formidable challenge for the consular staffs assigned to the tasks,” it said.
“Carrying out meaningful background checks on that many people in a country like Pakistan—a known base for Islamic terrorists—is impossible.”
Soon after Malik and Farook’s Pakistani origins were revealed, Republican Senators Jeff Sessions and Ted Cruz urged President Barack Obama’s administration to release their immigration files, as well as those of their parents.
Sessions, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and has called for a halt to welcoming refugees from the Middle East, also stressed that Pakistani immigrants were the biggest recipients of green cards.