Dallas terror suspect entered U.S. on tourist visa

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by By MONIKA DIAZ / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on October 2, 2009 at 10:54 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 19 at 6:14 PM

Living & Working in the U.S.A.

Monika Diaz reports

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DALLAS - Dallas skyscraper bombing suspect Hosam Smadi entered United States legally, with a visitor visa.

But some immigration experts say Smadi's activitiesover more than two years prove how easily someone can slip through cracks in the system.

Smadi's online photo gallery looks much like any tourist album, with snapshots of San Francisco from the Embarcadero Pier to the skyscrapers downtown.

But a closer look reveals more than parties with friends or sightseeing trips. Smadi was starting to build a life in the U.S. as an illegal immigrant.

Sources tell News 8 that Smadi entered the U.S. in March 2007 on a visitor visa through Chicago. It's not legal to get a job or to go to school using a B-2 visa, but he did both.

Smadi enrolled in a Santa Clara, California high school and found work at a restaurant. A month after his arrival, Smadi "legally" got an identification card from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Immigration lawyer Michelle Scopelleti says B-2 visa holders promise to go back home. "He goes out and gets an ID. He starts attending school and then he stays, so there had to be intent," Scopelleti said. "That immigrant intent that the consulate is supposed to vet out."

Scopelleti said immigration enforcement is getting better, but tracking down visitors with expired visas is still a big issue - even after the 9/11 attacks.

"We do have a problem now with many of the people who are here in unlawful status," she said. "You enter the country and you just don't go back.

"It's easy to get lost, yes"

Two weeks before his arrest, an Ellis County deputy pulled over smadi and found he didn't have a driver's license or proof of insurance.

But that wasn't the first time Smadi had a run-in with the law. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, he was involved in an accident in 2007. He was ticketed for damaging property, driving without a license and for failing to carry insurance.

Smadi was obligated to appear in court to face those citations, but he simply never showed up.

Now - more than two years later - federal investigators label him a terrorist in a bomb plot to bring down a downtown Dallas office building.

"It's concerning," Scopelleti said, adding that it is "possible" that there are others in this country right now who could also pose a threat.

"If they are not vetted properly, we really don't know who they are," she said.

A traffic warrant was not issued for Smadi in California because he was a minor at the time. News 8 was not able to determine whether immigration officials were notified about his case.

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