The San Bernardino, California, shooters met on a matrimonial website and became engaged to be married after “several weeks of emailing” and a family meeting in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the couple told U.S. immigration authorities in a newly released 2013 visa application.
The government granted the fiancé visa to Pakistani national Tashfeen Malik that let her enter the country to marry Syed Rizwan Farook, with whom she launched the terrorist attack that killed 14 people earlier this month.
The House Judiciary Committee made Malik’s 21-page immigration file public for the first time Tuesday as lawmakers probe whether to tighten requirements for foreigners to enter the country.
The committee’s chairman, Republican Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, charges that immigration officials “sloppily” approved Malik’s fiancé visa without even requiring proof the pair had met. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services insisted Tuesday that Malik had been thoroughly screened and met all requirements to be issued the visa.
The couple applied for the fiancé visa in December of 2013, with Farook listing his birthplace as Chicago and residence as Riverside, California. He wrote that he intended to marry Malik, a resident of Multan, a city in Pakistan, after meeting her on a “matrimonial website.”
My fiancé and I met through an online website. After several weeks of emailing, we decided to meet each other.
Syed Farook, in his application for a visa for his soon-to-be wife
“My fiancé and I met through an online website. After several weeks of emailing, we decided to meet each other,” Farook wrote.
He wrote that they found a chance to meet when Malik was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, visiting her parents, who lived in the country. in October 2013. Farook wrote that he and his parents had decided to perform the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, that same month.
“We decided to have both our families meet on Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 at the house of my fiance’s relative who lives not too far from the Ajyad Hotel in Mecca,” he wrote. “My fiancée and her family drove from Riyadh to Mecca so that we could meet and it is on this day that we got engaged.”
Couples are required to establish that they’ve met in person to get fiancé visas. As evidence, Farook submitted entry visas and passport stamps to U.S. immigration officials to demonstrate that he and Malik had been in Saudi Arabia at the same time.
Stephen Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell Law School, said the visa application made public by the Judiciary Committee didn’t have enough evidence to prove “one way or the other” whether Farook and Malik had met in person.
It’s not clear whether immigration officials took any other steps to verify the meeting. A U.S. consular official interviewed Malik in Pakistan but there were no interview notes or additional documents in her fiancé visa application, according to a House Judiciary aide.
Tashfeen Malik’s immigration file contained sufficient evidence to establish that she intended to marry Syed Farook.
Joseph Holstead, spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesman Joseph Holstead said in a statement that all required procedures had been followed.
“Tashfeen Malik’s immigration file contained sufficient evidence to establish that she intended to marry Syed Farook and that the two were together in Saudi Arabia before the fiancé petition was filed,” he said.
Holstead said numerous background checks through law enforcement and national security databases “did not reveal any derogatory information about Malik.”
Farook wrote in the visa application that “my fiancé and I intend to marry within the first month of her arriving in the U.S.”
A year and a half after that marriage, the couple attacked Farook’s co-workers at a holiday party in San Bernardino before dying in a shootout with police.