Tunisian-born Sofian Khlifi, 34, is a knowledgeable man, college-educated, fluent in Arabic, French, Italian, and English – the type who, presumably, could pass the simple, brief test for U.S. citizenship.
In 2002, five years after arriving in Philadelphia, Khlifi began the process of naturalization. But the consultant he hired to help him apply, Broomall businessman Habeeb Malik, had a curious idea for greasing the skids. He took Khlifi to an osteopath in Media who, after 15 minutes, concluded he had “mental retardation, anxiety disorder, and depression. With a diagnosed learning disability, Khlifi could have become a citizen without having to take the test.
How many immigrants used the shortcut has not yet been determined. However, a federal jury already has found Malik, Ira Weiner, and another Philadelphia-area physician, Thongchai Vorasingha, guilty of naturalization fraud for participating in evaluations of at least a dozen applicants falsely labeled mentally disabled. In court documents, investigators said Weiner had told them he saw up to 150 immigrant clients in three years.
The three, set to be sentenced in October, “exposed a vulnerability” in immigration law, said Andrew McLees, who supervises investigations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Philadelphia. “They cheated to get naturalization, which is the golden ticket.”
For this golden ticket, all the applicants needed to do was pass the civics and English portion of the test.
For the civics test, an applicant will be asked up to 10 questions from the list of 100 civics questions and answers. Applicants must answer correctly at least six of the 10 questions to pass the civics test. On the English test, there are three components: speaking, reading, and writing. USCIS says: “An applicant’s ability to speak English is determined by the USCIS Officer from the applicant’s answers to questions normally asked during the eligibility interview on the Application for Naturalization, Form N-400. Modifications were made to the reading and writing tests. The sentences included on the new reading and writing tests will not be made publicly available. USCIS released reading and writing vocabulary lists containing all the words found in the new English reading and writing tests. Applicants can use the vocabulary lists to study. Applicants must read 1 out of 3 items correctly to pass the reading test. Applicants must write 1 out of 3 items correctly to pass the writing test.”
Yep, the test is so tough that some applicants pay off somebody to say that they’re not right on the head, so they need not have to take the test. Jeez! I mean, the USCIS naturalization test page is here.
The July 21 press release from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) screams:
3 convicted in naturalization scheme | ICE and USCIS work together to stop fraud (reprinted in full below):
PHILADELPHIA – Two doctors and a business man were convicted today for their role in a naturalization fraud conspiracy after an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Dr. Habeeb Malik, 60, of Broomall, Penn., Dr. Ira Weiner, 59, of Narberth, Penn., and Dr. Thongchai Vorasingha, 73, of Wallingford, Penn., were convicted July 20 by a federal court jury on charges they conspired to make false statements in applications to become U. S. citizens and committed fraud in connection with the applications. Malik was also convicted of filing false tax returns that failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxable income.
According to court records, Malik owned The Foundation of Human Services in Broomall which purported to assist foreign individuals in becoming naturalized U. S. citizens. As part of the scheme, Malik would refer clients to Weiner and Vorasingha who would “examine” the clients and then complete a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) waiver form N-648.
The N-648 waiver is a Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions. The form is intended for applicants for U.S. citizenship who seek an exception to the English and civics testing requirements for naturalization “because of physical or developmental disability or mental impairment.”
The waiver forms falsely stated that the applicants suffered from various permanent maladies that impaired their ability to learn English when in fact the doctors knew that the applicants did not suffer from any of these ailments and were not eligible for the waiver. Malik charged his clients approximately $2,000 for this service and paid Weiner and Vorasingha approximately $120 for the “examinations.”
“This conviction is the direct result of close coordination between ICE and USCIS,” said John P. Kelleghan, special agent in charge of ICE’s Office of Investigations in Philadelphia. “What we have been able to do together is expose a conspiracy to defraud the government and put a stop to individuals seeking to exploit our nation’s immigration system. This case should put others on notice that ICE and USCIS will continue to work together to combat fraud and restore integrity to our nation’s immigration system.”
The conviction is the result of an investigation by ICE special agents assigned to the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force and was conducted in coordination with USCIS.
Weiner and Vorasingha face up to three years in prison. They will be sentenced on October 21 and October 22 respectively. Malik faces up to four years in prison and will be sentenced on October 20. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorneys Michael Bresnick and Richard Zack.
The funny thing is – there’s no mention on what they’re going to do with the naturalized applicants (who I presumed are now, American citizens with punched golden tickets) who availed of these folks’ friendly services.
Really – if ICE and USCIS want “to restore integrity to our nation’s immigration system,” they can start with these individuals, yes? I see that the revocations of naturalization under INA 340(d) are judicial proceedings. But man, isn’t that why the taxpayers have U. S. Attorneys working for them.
7 FAM 1230 APPENDIX D REVISED INA 340 (CT:CON-286; 03-18-2009) says that “a. The revised INA 340(a) (8 U.S.C. 1451(a)) reflects that naturalization may be revoked on the ground that the certificate of naturalization was illegally procured or was procured by concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation.”
I’m not a lawyer — but if an applicant paid these guys $2,150 to get off having to take the naturalization test, and there’s supporting papers that says the exception was due to “physical or developmental disability or mental impairment” when the applicant is actually of able mind and body — tell me again that such action is not willful and not a misrepresentation.
In a Jeopardy round this would be — What is the “rule of law”? That’s also Question 12 in the civics booklet, Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lessons for the New Naturalization Test.
- 7 FAM 1200 Appendix D Fraudulent Naturalization
- USA v. HABEEB MALIK, IRA WEINER, THONGCHAI VORASINGHA
Grand Judy Indictment (The Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
- USA v. Ira Weiner: Motion for Severance