Preventing the Last Tragedy
Dec. 17, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — In the aftermath of the San Bernardino shootings, the federal government is reviewing the K-1 visa, which allowed Tashfeen Malik to enter the country. The K-1 visa allows foreign nationals to immigrate to the United States for the purpose of marrying an American citizen. President Obama has ordered a review of the program, in light of the allegations that the Customs and Immigration “missed” Malik’s social media postings that she wanted to become a jihadist.
Officials characterized the messages as “her private communications … to a small group of her friends.”
The official added, “it went only to this small group in Pakistan.”
In other words, it wasn’t a post to her wall for everyone to see. The impression one would get from watching the inane commentary (especially from Republican presidential candidates) is that Malik erected a billboard in Karachi’s equivalent of Times Square that said “Death to America!”
Part of the screening involved in getting a K-1 visa are a series of questions, such as:
Do you seek to engage in terrorist activities while in the United States or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities?
Have you ever or do you intend to provide financial assistance or other support to terrorists or terrorist organizations?
Are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization?
Seriously, are you a terrorist? You can tell us. We won’t be mad. Promise.
(I made the last one up.)
The questions aren’t as inane as they seem. The point is not to accept the answers at face value, but to create a basis for further questioning.
In addition to answering them, Malik would have needed to detail for immigration and State officials every country to which she had traveled over the last five years and any family members she had in the United States.
Officials review the applications “very closely looking for indicators of deception, fraud or inconsistencies,” according to Washington-based immigration attorney Michael Freestone.
In Malik’s case, if her application had been flagged for one of those indicators, she “would have had a very different experience, with lines of questioning designed to put [her] under pressure,” Freestone said. (emphasis added).
That’s one hell of an “if.” Here’s the fundamental problem: the ways of doing evil in this world are limited only by depths of human depravity—which is to say, they are essentially infinite. Remember immediately after 9/11 and the arguments for profiling? Neither Syed Farook nor Tashfin Malik fit the “profile.” Before the San Bernardino massacre, who would have thought that a married couple with an infant child would have dropped their baby off with a relative and gone off to commit mass murder?
Could we have stopped 9/11? The Boston Marathon bombing? Oklahoma City? Sandy Hook? Every time a tragedy happens, we feel this overwhelming need to DO SOMETHING. And so the unintended consequences multiply. 9/11 got us the TSA and the USA PATRIOT Act. Every mass shooting gets us a new push for gun control. The latest one is a proposal that people on the no-fly list shouldn’t be allowed to buy guns. Sounds like a good idea…because the no-fly list is a paragon of due process. How long did it take for civil-libertarians to forget that after San Bernardino? And how long before the police can make “suggestions” on who should be on the no-fly list?
It’s not just terrorism and mass murder. The deaths of Megan Kanka and Adam Walsh got us Megan’s Law and the Walsh Act…and now, high school seniors have their lives ruined for sleeping with their sophomore girlfriends, and end up living under bridges.
The urge to DO SOMETHING is perfectly natural after a terrible event. It’s a psychological defense mechanism to the realization that the world is a dangerous place. The truth is that at any moment, you could be murdered. You could die in a terrorist attack. Your children could be kidnapped. For that matter, nuclear war could break out and you could be turned into radioactive dust after Putin has one too many vodkas. And you can’t do anything about it.
Or at least, you can’t eliminate the danger entirely. Of course, we should strike a balance between our safety and our liberty. The problem with reacting immediately after a tragedy is that the shock of the event pushes us to err on the side of safety. Some other guy already talked about that. It may be a cliché, but it’s one worth remembering, because it seems we haven’t learned the lesson yet.