Update (11 a.m. CT): After a 40-minute hearing, Al Hardan has been ordered to be held without bond until his detention hearing on Wednesday.
Original story: Thursday, two Iraqi-born refugees were arrested on terror-related charges – one right here in Texas, the other in California.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Houston confirmed the arrest of a 24-year-old Palestinian male, Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, but stated there was “no current threat to public safety associated with this arrest.”
Al Hardan could face 20 years in a federal prison and a fine of $250,000 on the charge of supporting ISIS alone. He could get up to 25 years in prison for procuring false citizenship.
More information is expected when Al Hardan makes a court appearance Friday.
Al Hardan is charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIS, the so-called Islamic State. He’s also charged with unlawfully procuring citizenship or naturalization, and with making false statements.
Friday both men will appear to court, where charges will be read. Additional information about the details of their cases will be coming out as the day progresses.
Ward says the California and Texas arrest appear to be linked, and there’s a third case in Wisconsin that is also linked to the arrests.
Texas State officials including Attorney General Ken Paxton, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick praised law enforcement for the arrests, but warned that this was a result of the Obama administration taking in refugees from countries such as Iraq and Syria.
“For months, (they) have been warning that taking in a lot of refugees without proper background and vetting procedures is opening the door to problems,” Ward says. “And they quickly… highlighted the fact that this underscores their point.”
These are the latest in a series of similar arrests around the country that have taken place over past year.
Ward says these particular arrests are going to further intensify the conversation surround admitting refugees into the United States.
“In coming days you’ll see this become a topic of discussion again, more so in the presidential race in Iowa, in New Hampshire, in other states,’ Ward says. “Immigration is a big issue and these refugees has been a big issue for some time.”
Late Thursday night, Texas senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz called for the retroactive assessment of refugees. Ward says that it’s not clear what time frame Cruz is asking the federal government to look back on.
“What he wants is for the federal government to go back and to retroactively assess refugees who have already been allowed into this country,” Ward says. “That’d be a big undertaking.”