On Wednesday, FBI director James Comey alleged that the San Bernardino shooters were already plotting a mass-murder attack on the United States before Tafsheen Malik received the K-1 visa admitting her to the United States. Her husband-to-be, Syed Farook, was born a U.S. citizen. Yet his family’s immigration history should also raise searching questions about the process by which would-be Americans are selected.
Mr. Farook’s father was an alcoholic and could be violent, capable of lashing out at his wife and children, according to statements his mother, Rafia Farook, made in a series of divorce proceedings beginning in 2006. The father, also named Syed Farook, called his wife names, screamed at his children, hurled home appliances and, at the worst moments, grew so combative that his children had to step between him and his wife, she asserted.
The elder Mr. Farook forced his family to move out of their home in 2006, Ms. Farook said in court papers, but he continued to harass her. “My husband is mentally ill and is on medication but is also an alcoholic and drinks with the medicine,” she said. The marriage was formally dissolved this year...
A neighbor, Victor Venegas, said that the elder Mr. Farook had worked for him driving trucks until 2003 and would come around looking for money. “He would sometimes come over without calling,” Mr. Venegas said, and ask, “Can I have $10 to buy cigarettes?”
It’s not clear who exactly provided the first link in the chain of migration that brought the Farook clan to California and ultimately enabled the entry of Tashfeen Malik from Pakistan. That same chain, incidentally, also enabled the migration of Syed Farook’s brother, also named Syed, who volunteered for the U.S. Navy shortly after 9/11 and served aboard the USS Enterprise.
However one assesses that chain and its consequences, it seems clear that the large majority of legal immigrants choose to come—or, more exactly, are chosen by their relatives—for their own reasons. They are not selected by the United States to advance some national interest. Illegal immigrants are of course entirely self-selected, as are asylum seekers. Even the refugee process, reportedly the most tightly screened, operates to a considerable extent outside national control: The first assessment of refugees is typically made by the UN High Commission on Refugees from within camps it operates. That explains why, for example, Christian Syrians make up only about 3 percent of the refugees admitted to the United States, despite accounting for 10 percent of the country’s population: Fearing violence from Sunni Muslims, they apparently hesitate to enter UN camps in the first place.