A citizen of Jordan who lives in Mexico pleaded guilty on Monday in Texas to charges he smuggled six illegal immigrants from Yemen into the United States through Eagle Pass.
Moayad Mohammad Aldairi admitted in a Del Rio court that he took money from at least a dozen citizens of Yemen to help them enter the U.S. illegally between October and December 2017, but his attorney, Rusty Guyer, argued the smuggled immigrants weren’t terrorists, they were desperate refugees, the San Antonio Express-News reports.
Press conference with @TheJusticeDept about to begin on Moayad Heider Mohammad Aldairi, a Jordanian national who plead guilty to smuggling Yemeni aliens through Mexico into the US. pic.twitter.com/Gy4LKFOHX4
— Joe Galli (@JoeGalliNews) April 30, 2019
Guyer attempted to blame the 32-year-old’s “persecution” on President Trump, who he claims is using the case to promote his immigration policies.
“It’s just one more step toward being anti-Muslim,” Guyer said. “It’s Trump persecuting Middle Easterners, primarily Muslims.”
The Trump administration has highlighted Aldairi’s case as an example of how smugglers are using America’s broken immigration system to bring in “special interest aliens” from the Middle Eastern nations with ties to terrorism.
“While outside the United States, the defendant brought at least six aliens from a country who unvetted nationals potentially present grave security risks wherever they reside,” Justice Department prosecutor James Hepburn wrote in court documents.
John Bash, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, held a press conference on Tuesday to discuss the case.
Bash said Aldairi plotted to get the Yemenis into the U.S. by first flying them to Ecuador, then Mexico, Fox San Antonio reports.
Once in Mexico, Aldairi brought them to the Rio Grande and the group waded across. Aldairi reportedly gave the Yemenis construction vests and hats to help them blend in and explained his smuggling methods, a conversation that was recorded on video by one of the illegal immigrants, according to the Express News.
The six Yemenis were apprehended by Border Patrol shortly after crossing the Rio Grande, and all of them identified Aldairi as their smuggler. They told investigators they paid Aldairi between $2,000 and $6,000 each for his services.
“Border security is national security. We simply cannot have an immigration system that allows people from all over the world to enter this country without detection,” Bash said at the press conference. “We must know the identity of every person setting foot on U.S. Soil, however they enter.”
He blamed the situation in part on the lack of an effective barrier along the border.
“There’s no barrier there,” Bash said of the area where the group crossed into the U.S. near Eagle Pass. “These aliens just waded across that river. Nothing to stop them from going across. That’s really dangerous.”
Aldairi, a resident of Jordan with a home in Monterrey, Mexico, had been repeatedly denied a visa to visit the United States, but Homeland Security officials made an exception last year.
The Express News reports:
“In his fifteenth effort to secure a visa to enter the United States, the defendant told employees at the United States Embassy in Jordan that he had a wife who was a United States citizen and he wished to travel to her,” Hepburn wrote in government motion to keep Aldairi detained.
Homeland Security officials filed a criminal complaint against Aldairi on May 29, 2018, and obtained a warrant for his arrest, then kept the documents sealed for months as they investigated him. He was allowed to journey from Jordan to the United States and has apprehended when he flew in from London to LaGuardia airport in New York in July 2018. He has been jailed ever since, court records show.
Aldairi faces up to 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced “at a later date.”