On Thursday — just two days after President Bush put the prestige of his office on the line in urging Mideast governments to cut off funding for terrorist groups, ABC News correspondent Brian Ross reported that two men who had bankrolled Hamas suicide bombings in Israel were living normal lives in Chicago and Milwaukee.
Mohammad Salah had worked for the Chicago school system since February 2002. He was fired this week for failing to report his conviction on terrorism charges in Israel on his employment application. Mr. Salah, a U.S. citizen who emigrated from Jordan in 1970, was on a Treasury Department list of “specially designated terrorists” because of his role in providing money to Hamas during trips to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in the early 1990s. Arrested by Israel in January 1993, he pleaded guilty to membership and participation in Hamas in an Israeli court in 1995. After five years imprisonment, he returned to the United States. In 1998, the federal government seized approximately $1.4 million in assets from Mr. Salah and a nonprofit group in suburban Chicago, on grounds that the funds went to support violence against Israel.
The second man was Jamil Sarsour, who became a U.S. citizen after moving to Milwaukee two decades ago from the Ramallah area of the West Bank. During his time in Milwaukee, Mr. Sarsour ran grocery and furniture stores, and visited the West Bank several times a year, where he maintained a laundromat and car dealership. Israeli officials say that, in 1997 and 1998, he provided $40,000 to Adel Awadullah, a senior Hamas operative who planned suicide bombings against Israel. After four years imprisonment in Israel, Mr. Sarsour was released and deported to the United States, and arrested on a criminal complaint when he returned to the country last Dec. 27. On Jan. 22, Mr. Sarsour was indicted in the Eastern District of Wisconsin for evading currency transaction reporting requirements that cash transactions in excess of $10,000 be reported to the IRS. He made bail, and ABC News found Mr. Sarsour gainfully employed at a Milwaukee grocery store. Israeli and U.S. authorities say one of the suicide bus bombings financed by Mr. Sarsour killed two Americans — Matt Eisenfeld and Sarah Duker — who were planning to be married. The couple’s parents were astonished that Mr. Sarsour is a free man on American soil.
The Salah and Sarsour cases point up a loophole in American immigration law: Once someone becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen, it is virtually impossible to deport them unless they commit fraud or misrepresent their background during the naturalization process. This is a dangerous loophole that must be closed.