25 Years After the 1993 World Trade Center and the Loopholes in the Immigration System Remain
Jennifer G. Hickey
On this day 25 years ago, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and six other individuals carried out the first successful terrorist attack on the World Trade Center – an act which killed six people and wounded more than a thousand.Just after noon of Feb. 26, a bomb ripped through the underground garage of the World Trade Center taking the lives of John DiGiovanni, Robert Kirkpatrick, Stephen A. Knapp, William Macko, Wilfredo Mercado, and Monica Rodriguez Smith.The bombing showed the plotters failed to achieve their goal of bringing down the Towers, but the “greatest terrorist attack on U.S. soil” had exposed failures in the nation’s immigration system.The mastermind of the 1993 bombing was Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, an individual who boarded a plane in Pakistan on a false British passport before traveling to the U.S. on a fake Iraqi passport and entered the United States in September 1992 without a visa.He was permitted to enter provisionally after asking for asylum, and but was not detained for further review because of lack of detention space.Yousef came to the U.S. on the same plane as Ahmed Ajaj, a Palestinian who arrived on a fake Swedish passport, was found to have bomb making videos and manuals in his luggage and was arrested on a passport fraud charge.
- Mohammed Salameh entered the United States in 1988 on a Jordanian passport and a visitor’s visa issued in Amman, Jordan. He applied for legal residence status was turned down, but continued to be in the country for years on appeal of that decision.
- Mahmud Abouhalima, entered on a tourist visa and applied for and gained amnesty under the agricultural worker provision of the 1986 IRCA amnesty despite living in New York and working as a taxi driver. Abouhalima fled to Saudi Arabia. He was extradited back to the United States and was convicted and sentenced to 240 years imprisonment.
- Eyad Ismoil, a Jordanian citizen, was born in Kuwait, but educated in Jorddan. It was in 1989 that he came to study engineering at Wichita State University in Kansas and never left.
- Mir Aimal Kansi, who was responsible for the murder of employees outside of CIA headquarters in 1993;
- Lafi Khalil, who was involved in the New York subway bomb plot in 1997;
- Fadil Abdelghani, who took part in the 1994 plot to bomb New York landmarks, all exploited the visa system to enter and then stay in the United States.
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