How did this ISIS fighter become a "refugee" in California?

The federal government, coordinating with the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department, is to be commended for nabbing Omar Ameen a couple of days ago. He was wanted in Iraq for participating in ISIS attacks and murdering an Iraqi police officer, so we can chalk one up for the good guys. But ever since the details were made public, people have been increasingly fixated on one question. How did this guy manage to make it to California and be granted refugee status in the first place? (CBS Sacramento)

As federal authorities in Sacramento prepare to extradite Omar Ameen to his home country of Iraq, many are wondering how he was approved for refugee status in the first place?

The answer to that question remains unclear…

CBS13 spoke to the three main refugee assistance groups in Sacramento, to ask about their vetting process, but they all declined to be officially interviewed for our story.

The programs help settle hundreds of refugees here each year. Many are from war-torn countries such as Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

Ameen “fled” Iraq in 2012, arriving in Turkey. There he applied for refugee status, claiming he was fleeing the violence in his home country. But once he was settled in, he joined up with other ISIS fighters and got to work. He was granted refugee status in 2014, and with Turkey being a NATO partner of the United States, he was able to then apply for refugee status here. That was granted almost immediately and he moved to America, first settling in Salt Lake City and later moving to Sacramento.

How did he manage this feat? Simple. He lied. He had a lengthy sob story of how his family was under threat from terror groups, but it turns out that Ameen had been one of the early founders of AQI, later joining up with ISIS. He’s got a terror rap sheet longer than his arm. This led the Daily Caller to point out, “This is how easy it is for an ISIS fighter to scam the refugee system.”

Ameen appears not to have faced any rigorous questioning from the U.S. government about terror links and his criminal activities. Instead, he simply answered “no” to questions about his alleged ISIS and al-Qaeda links while inventing a false narrative about his father and brother.

“Have you ever interacted with, had involvement with, or known any members of … Al Qaeda in Iraq … the Islamic State of Iraq or any other armed group or militia?” was one of the questions USCIS posed to Ameen.

“No,” he answered, according to Justice Department documents.

Ameen denied he had ever committed crimes in Iraq.

“In actuality,” according to the Justice Department, witnesses told the FBI that Ameen committed “numerous crimes ranging from robbery to placing [improvised explosive devices].”

This isn’t to say that our refugee vetting process fails consistently. We certainly do find, detain and deport some people trying to sneak through in that fashion. But Ameen’s case makes it obvious that we’re definitely not catching all of them.

Many of the countries these terrorists and gang members are coming from don’t have the sort of centralized, digital records that we maintain in the United States. And the fog of war can cover up many sins. If somebody can get a convincing looking set of papers and claim to be someone else or, as in this case, simply lie about what they’ve been up to… welcome to America, I guess.

Of course, anyone who suggests cutting back on the number of refugees we process and accept to allow more time for discovery is a racist. So what do we do about it? Apparently, we’re stuck playing whack-a-mole with them after they are welcomed into the interior of our country.