The Trump Administration Wants To Deport an Iraqi Refugee for Being an Islamic State Terrorist. The Only Problem? He's Not.

Sending Omar Ameen back to Iraq will likely result in his execution, and the case against him doesn't make sense. The Trump administration is fighting to do it anyway.


When Omar Ameen was arrested in Sacramento, California, in August 2018, federal authorities claimed to have apprehended a dangerous and wanted terrorist who had managed to infiltrate the United States by posing as a refugee from Iraq.

Ameen, the Justice Department said in a statement announcing his arrest, had been a member of al-Qaeda in Iraq and later an operative for the Islamic State. As part of those terrorist organizations, Ameen had "participated in various activities in support of those terrorist organizations, including helping to plant improvised explosive devices, and committing the murder" of a police officer in his hometown of Rawah, near the Syrian border, during the Islamic State's 2014 takeover of the region. Ameen had escaped justice in Iraq, then "concealed his membership in those terrorist groups when he applied for refugee status, and later when he applied for a green card in the United States," the Justice Department said.

It was exactly the type of story that confirmed many anti-immigrant, anti-refugee biases. Local and national news outlets ran with the story of the Islamic State militant arrested on American soil. Here was proof that Islamic State members and other terrorists could infiltrate America by posing as refugees—just as President Donald Trump had warned during a presidential debate in October 2016, when he said accepting more refugees from Syria and Iraq would be "the great Trojan horse of all time."

Except, as an infuriating and deeply reported piece by Ben Taub at The New Yorker argues persuasively, almost none of the basic facts reported by the Justice Department in those original statements seem to stand up to scrutiny. Despite that, Ameen has been locked up in a maximum-security federal prison for more than a year, and the Trump administration is still working to extradite him to Iraq—where Ameen would likely be executed for a crime he did not commit.

The biggest problem with the Iraqi and American governments' case against Ameen? He wasn't even in Iraq when he supposedly committed the murder at the center of his arrest and extradition request.

Ameen and his family fled Iraq in 2012—two years before he supposedly committed that murder—and were living in Turkey after applying for refugee status through a United Nations resettlement program. In order to believe that Ameen is guilty of that crime, you'd have to believe that he returned to Iraq—traveling 600 miles from Istanbul, passing through the chaos of the ongoing Syrian Civil War, and jeopardizing his own life and his family's refugee status—just to kill a single police officer in his former home town before returning to Turkey. That's quite a stretch.

But Ameen has more than just a good alibi. Perhaps the most infuriating part of Taub's article is a detail that federal prosecutors refused to allow to be disclosed in court documents—citing a risk to "national security" if it was disclosed.

That detail? As Taub reports:

[Assistant U.S. Attorney Audrey] Hemesath's secret filing reveals that, "subsequent to the arrest of Ameen, the United States came into possession of potentially exculpatory alibi information." The evidence, which appears to have been collected as part of a surveillance operation on an unwitting target, reveals that "an individual believed to have been co-located with Ameen in Turkey during the pertinent timeframe claims that Ameen never left Turkey."

In other words, the U.S. government has proof that Ameen's alibi is accurate—but it has refused to allow that document to be part of the official record of Ameen's extradition case.

"There's nothing about that sentence that jeopardizes national security," Ben Galloway, Ameen's attorney, tells The New Yorker. "It jeopardizes their case."

To believe that Ameen is an Islamic State fighter who brilliantly conned the United States into granting him refugee status requires an even bigger leap of faith. The U.N. program where Ameen, his wife, and their three children sought refuge resettles people in dozens of countries around the world, and the refugees themselves have no say in where they end up. If the U.N. decided to send Ameen and his family to the United States as part of a conspiracy to infiltrate America with terrorists, then how many other officials must have been part of the scheme?

It would also require you to believe that American immigration officials somehow missed all of this when vetting Ameen's family for refugee status. And you'd have to come up with an adequate answer to the question of why Ameen would go through that years-long process to gain entry to the U.S.—without knowing that he would be sent to the U.S.—when he could have simply bought a plane ticket and come into the country on temporary, tourist visas (like the 9/11 hijackers did).

Between landing in the U.S. in 2014 and being arrested in 2018, Taub reports, Ameen had worked as an Uber driver and a mechanic. He's volunteered at a Mormon charity and learned English. He and his wife had another child—an American citizen—and have applied for green cards.

This is, to put it mildly, not exactly the profile of a hardened terrorist determined to do harm to America.

But he's hardly alone. The whole notion of refugees as "Trojan horse" terrorists-in-waiting is bunk.

In a 2016 study of domestic terror attacks conducted by foreign-born individuals, Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst for the Cato Institute, a free market think tank based in Washington, D.C., looked at the period from 1975 through 2015. He found that 154 foreign-born terrorists carried out attacks on U.S. soil that killed 3,024 people. More than 98 percent of those deaths occurred on September 11, 2001.

In a follow-up study published in October by the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Nowrasteh and three of his colleagues found "no relationship between immigration and terrorism, whether measured by the number of attacks or victims, in destination countries," even when immigration comes from Muslim majority countries and countries involved in ongoing armed conflicts, like Iraq.

But that hasn't stopped the Trump administration from stoking fears of terrorism as justification for cutting how many refugees America will accept. The U.S. will accept just18,000 refugees this year, down from a cap of 30,000 in 2019. That's the lowest total in any single year since 1980, when the current refugee resettlement law was passed by Congress, according to the Pew Research Center.

Now, the Trump administration seems determined to make an example out of Ameen.

"The project of government relies on nonpolitical career officials following orders, and executing them well," writes Taub. The FBI, Department of Homeland Security, State Department, and Justice Department, he writes, "have been co-opted into a campaign to extradite an innocent man to almost certain death, in order to make a racist talking point appear to be slightly less of a fiction."

The judge in Ameen's case has given the defense until January 29th to make their final arguments. Under the laws governing U.S. extradition cases, the government only has to show that there is "probable cause" Ameen committed the 2014 murder, not prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

There is no probable cause. And sending Ameen back to Iraq would be tantamount to giving him a death sentence—seriously, read all the way to the end of Taub's piece, because the kicker is a real doozy.

For now, Ameen remains in a max security prison cell. He's an innocent man who fled a disaster caused by misguided American foreign policy, only to wind up a victim of misguided American immigration policy.

NEXT: The Senate Can (but Probably Won't) Fill the Gaps in the Case for a Ukraine Quid Pro Quo

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  1. What does this have to do with immigration policy? What sane policy would allow murderous terrorists to relocate to the US?

    Your problem appears to be with the criminal justice system?

    1. Speaking of which, he should with no further delay be required to prove that he has never engaged in any kind of inappropriate “parody.” And if he can’t prove it, then his incarceration should be prolonged and his deportation date accelerated, whether consecutively, concomitantly or otherwise. Let us be very clear: there is no place for such elements, either here at NYU or anywhere else in America. See the documentation of our nation’s leading criminal “satire” case at:

  2. “An arrest warrant charging Ameen with the 2014 murder of an Iraqi police officer was issued on May 16, by a judge of the Baghdad Federal Al-Karkh Inquiry Court. In accordance with its treaty obligations with Iraq, the United States filed a complaint in Sacramento seeking a warrant for Ameen’s arrest based on the extradition request. U.S. Magistrate Judge Edmund F. Brennan issued the warrant on Tuesday, and Ameen was arrested by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force in Sacramento today. ”

    Is it normal to have a criminal trial *prior* to extradition? Did Trump manufacture the Iraqi warrant to bolster support for his immigration policy?

    1. That’s apparently what Reason believes.

  3. I started skimming the 2016 paper.

    This analysis focuses on the 41-year period from January 1, 1975, to December 31, 2015, because it includes large waves of Cuban and Vietnamese refugees that posed a terrorism risk at the beginning of the time period and bookends with the San Bernardino terrorist attack.

    And we’re done here.

    1. The problem is Cubans and Vietnamese never DID have any real risk of terrorism, because their people didn’t participate in terrorist activities stateside, like ever.

      The Muslim world has state sponsors, and a large chunk of their general public that supports this shit.

      Nonsense studies.

      Also, just to play devils advocate a bit more… Those 154 people ONLY killed 3K people because 130 something of them were incompetent. If they had been smarter and more efficient in their killing, like the 911 guys, or even the mid range guys that have whacked a couple dozen people each, those numbers could be far higher.

      ALSO, bear in mind if we’d not had any of these fucks in our country… The number of people killed would have basically been zero. That needs to be weighed against the advantages of allowing them in of course… Problem is when one is talking about destitute refugees, they’re all a net negative drain on natives. Allowing in select people for their high value skills might pan out, but not half illiterate refugees.

  4. “The U.N. program where Ameen, his wife, and their three children sought refuge resettles people in dozens of countries around the world”

    Stop this globalist bullshit. Problem solved.

  5. In other words, the U.S. government has proof that Ameen’s alibi is accurate—but it has refused to allow that document to be part of the official record of Ameen’s extradition case.

    Sounds like Ameen is Waiting For An Alibi

    1. Well played. I saw that tour.

      1. You lucky bastard.

        1. Almost.

          One of the guitars, I think Moore, had just quit the band and they only had one guitar player for the show. That does take away some of the awesome.

  6. “The Trump Administration Wants To Deport an Iraqi Refugee…

    “…the Trump administration is still working to extradite him to Iraq…”

    Deportation and extradition are different things.

    I would presume there’s a treaty with Iraq requiring American charged with crimes to be deported from Iraq to America and vice versa.

    There is a requirement that the country which wants the guy extradited has to have probable cause. So if there’s an airtight alibi, then I presume that excludes probable cause and this guy wins. If there’s room for dispute, the Iraqi courts are trusted to decide the case.

    I’m open to the possibility that the Iraqi government is prosecuting an innocent person. Again, an airtight alibi ruling out probable cause (if that’s the kind of alibi he has) would mean he doesn’t have to go back to Iraq.

    1. I’m open to the possibility that the Iraqi government is prosecuting an innocent person. Again, an airtight alibi ruling out probable cause (if that’s the kind of alibi he has) would mean he doesn’t have to go back to Iraq.

      I don’t see how that follows. If he is not a US citizen, he has no right to stay in the US and he is subject to Iraqi justice, extradition treaty or not. And unless they persecute him for political reasons, miscarriages of foreign justice system are not grounds for asylum in the US, otherwise millions of people from around the globe could claim asylum in the US.

  7. Things often worked that way in Rawah, a small village in Iraq’s Anbar Province, where the Ameens had lived for generations. Tribal justice, long-running disputes: rivals denounced rivals as terrorists, and the state took care of the rest. “When you want to get revenge, you get revenge on the entire extended family,” Ameen later said.

    Why wouldn’t we import this culture into the US? What could go wrong?

    1. Everybody knows that diversity is our strength! And also Europeans, like, totally don’t actually have a real culture of their own… Only other places on earth have a real culture of any value. It must be true, because CNN, NYT, WAPO, and the Atlantic all agree on this!

  8. I don’t doubt Ameen didn’t commit the crime. The better question is, ‘Why the fuck is he here?’

    Why does he get to go to the head of the line to come here? Does he have some vital skill, large amount of wealth, or other benefit for the country beyond his propensity as a penniless refugee to go vote Democrat? Did he serve US forces in Iraq in some capacity?

    Everybody wants to come here and stay. Especially if they’re living in war torn Iraq. Should we let them?

    1. I guarantee this guy has been a net drain on native born Americans, as are every single low skilled immigrant or refugee. Always remember that if you don’t make around $60K a year, you’re a net negative taxpayer. I don’t think driving Uber in Utah was making him anywhere near that, and it sounds like he probably has 87 children like all these Muslims, which of course raises that figure A LOT. $60K a year is the statistical average, which is accounting for under 2 kids per household.

      In other words: Americans have had to PAY to have this useless fuck move here.

      1. That chapter of Parliament Of Whores made an impression on you too.

        I don’t see why the US needed to let him (and eventually his gazillion relatives under chain migration rules) into the country in the first place. How does Mr. Mateen help the United States, more than every other refugee on the planet that wants to live here?

        Further, what did he do to get the Iraqi government this irritated at him, if we agree he didn’t do this murder? Is it something that is indicative of any future trouble he’ll cause if he’s allowed to stay permanently in the US?

        LOL at the ‘extensive vetting’ refugees like him are alleged to undergo.

        1. I mean, the article said he’s from an area of Iraq where tribal justice is a thing, right? Maybe he didn’t do anything, a relative did? And the guy he did it to had connections? Or since he left, they were able to complain to the new government without anyone telling his side of the story?

  9. Security and intelligence officials found the rhetoric absurd: refugees are the most thoroughly vetted category of people entering the U.S. Candidates are screened by the C.I.A., the N.S.A., the F.B.I., the Department of Defense, and several other agencies before they arrive.

    This fantasy we can have perfect knowledge is absurd even before we remember these numbnuts spent two years telling us about Russian collusion and pissing on beds. Their questioning methods were revealed in a documentary:

    Dean Martin : Mr. Melon, I’m only going to ask you once:…Is this your work?

    Thornton Melon : I can’t lie to you, Dean Martin. Yes, it is.

    Dean Martin: I’m satisfied.

  10. They are interviewed by Homeland Security officers who have received training in identifying lies,

    We have enough people like this to interview every refugee but not one assigned to the FISA court? Totally believable.

    Seriously, “received training” is all we can say and we’re supposed to conclude people can’t lie convincingly. What a crock of shit these idiots believe.

    1. “We have enough people like this to interview every refugee but not one assigned to the FISA court?”

      Good one.

  11. The guy is brown. Name sounds funny. Probably a Muslim.

    That’s enough for bigoted clingers, so it’s plenty for the Trump administration.

    1. Funny, you’re the on,y one saying that here.

      What a shock, you fucking bigot.

  12. They are interviewed by Homeland Security officers who have received training in identifying lies,

    We have enough people like this to interview every refugee but not one assigned to the FISA court? Totally believable.
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  13. We have enough people like this to interview every refugee but not one assigned to the FISA court? Totally believable.
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  14. 1. This sounds like an Iraqi law enforcement problem to me… We have an extradition treaty with them, so whatevs, not on us. They can sort out his alibi.

    2. Why did we allow in a net negative tax payer to suck money out of my pocket to begin with? Refugee programs, and allowing in unskilled workers in general, is a load of horseshit. Until there is ZERO welfare state, and prohibitions on these left wing foreigners voting away my freedoms, we don’t need any of these people here period. Let in only high skill people in numbers that can’t swing the entire political spectrum hard to the left, which is what the last few decades have done.

    3. If you want to get technical here, we would have had ZERO people killed by these people if we hadn’t let any of them in. What exactly are the massive contributions to society from Muslim Uber drivers to counter act that again? Oh, dick all nothing. I see.

    4. 90% of global terrorism nowadays is committed by Muslims, that’s just a fact. So if one is being logical instead of an emotive fag who thinks like a woman, it’s not an entirely bad reason to give some groups extra scrutiny. Maybe let economically useful ones in, but extra scrutiny isn’t a bad thing. Bear in mind profiling WORKS, it’s just douchey progs that don’t like the fact that it works.

    5. This guy may or many not be sketchy… But we have busted numerous people that DID commit crimes, or were trying to. And fuck all knows how many more there are out there. See the first 4 again. There’s nada to be gained by letting these people in, and a hell of a lot of hassle to be saved by not letting them in. How many terrorism incidents has Japan had vs the retarded USA or Europe lately? And there ya have it.

  15. I mean… on the one hand, the government’s a lying sack of shit. Ok, multiple sacks of shit. But on the other hand… the New Yorker? really? Come back when you have real journalists doing real journalism from an actual newspaper, instead of political hacks from a propaganda site.

    1. Information gathered even by a well intentioned unbiased reporter is not compelling. A lie told by an associate of the defender to a reporter that is subsequently published will not fetch a perjury any of the people involved. Only if the witness appears in court of at least in front of authorities are the legal assurances of truth apply.

  16. The Reason ideology isn’t well thought out. The best course for our country is to leave the middle east–remove our military presence completely. We are fighting a pointless battle, and things keep getting worse. If we did that, however, we would instantly be vulnerable to an increased level of vengeful attacks inside our borders. We have a legacy of many decades of intervention, and there are a lot of people in the mid east or of mid east heritage who will continue to seek vengeance. A decrease in our military presence over there would necessarily require an increase in our vigilance here.

    It’s not rational to simultaneously advocate military withdrawal and reduced vigilance domestically. That fantasy ignores too much ugly history.

  17. Refugees are supposed to return to their country of origin when the conditions for refugee status don’t exist anymore; that seems to be the case here. The fact that the guy has legal problems in Iraq is not a basis for refugee status, asylum, or immigration. The idea that refugees should, as a matter of course, get green cards and become US citizens is contrary to what refugee status is supposed to be about.

  18. In other words, the U.S. government has proof that Ameen’s alibi is accurate—but it has refused to allow that document to be part of the official record of Ameen’s extradition case.

  19. Why is it alleged that the defendant faces near certain death if returned to Iraq? Is the evidence used in the USA not of use in Iraqi courts?

  20. n other words, the U.S. government has proof that Ameen’s alibi is accurate—

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