President Joe Biden has just designated the latest “temporary” 18-month stays-of-deportation and work authorization to thousands of Ethiopians and Liberians living in the United States, and who are illegally crossing the southern border, on grounds that war conditions prevent them from returning.
This latest legally questionable “Temporary Protective Status” grant to Ethiopians and also tens of thousands of Liberians, the sixth renewal despite the outbreak of peace in that West African country more than two decades ago, comes on the heels of similar Biden orders protecting Cameroonians and Sudanese after pressure by human rights groups to extend the protection to Mauritanians and Congolese.
But these immigration moves should not pass without remark about a problem that few dare raise: Many of those crossing the collapsed southern border hail from lands of utter barbarity and are finding easy admittance into interior America with little public assurance that background vetting systems can prevent the importation of war criminals. As I write in my forthcoming book Overrun, How Joe Biden Unleashed the Greatest Border Crisis in U.S. History, the biggest portion ever known to be crossing the southern border are coming from 150 countries other than Mexico and Central America.
Stepping through the ruins of America’s collapsing southern border and other legal admittance processes are thousands of people from African nations teaming with tribal warlords and vicious militias that rape, pillage, plunder and murder. Perhaps many are actually persecuted victims of these militias, just as they say.
But Mezemr Abebe Belayneh, an Ethiopian living as a naturalized American citizen in Snellville, Georgia, certainly was not one of them. He is but one in a long and lengthening list of vicious African war criminals that ICE’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC) has rousted from U.S. hiding in just the past couple of years.
Ethiopian torturer finds easy U.S. sanctuary from justice
The 65-year-old former electronics store owner stands accused of covering up his participation as a torturing interrogator in Ethiopia’s 1976-1978 “Red Terror,” in which the Marxist-Leninist group known as the “Derg” rounded up members of rival communist Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party, or EPRP, seized their weapons, then tortured and executed them in makeshift prisons.
Belayneh ran just such an operation out of a hotel in the Ethiopian town of Dilla for about a year in 1977 and 1978, the Department of Justice indictment and other court records from a 2021 immigration fraud case brought against him state. Belayneh personally “played a prominent role in the questioning and severe physical abuse of political detainees,” court records show.
During his sessions, prisoners were beaten with fists, sticks, electrical wires and whips known as gumares, causing victims to lose consciousness. Belayneh’s victims described their skin peeling from their bodies. He “interrogated, severely beat, and ordered others under his control to severely beat members and perceived members of the EPRP who were detained,” the indictment said.
In the early 2000s, Ethiopian courts tried Belayneh in absentia for his crimes. He’d fled to Kenya and claimed asylum there after the Derg lost power in 1992 and, in October 2001, won a Diversity Visa to emigrate to the United States. Apparently while still in the U.S. immigration system, the Ethiopian courts convicted him in absentia of genocide and crimes against humanity with underlying offenses of aggravated homicide, grave willful injury and unlawful arrest, records from his U.S. prosecution say. Despite these convictions, in 2007, he still gamed the system and became a naturalized American citizen.
Belayneh and others with terrible personal histories like his did not come in through an open southern border but, rather, as immigration benefit applicants who first went through formal vetting processes overseas that clearly failed and then failed again as they acquired other immigration benefits inside the country.
Those who come through the border are subject to even less vetting. Therein lay the heightened risk; whereas Belayneh and other war criminals like him defeated established vetting processes to gain admittance as war refugees, Africans who cross the collapsing border arrive as complete strangers and gain admittance with far less vetting.
Men like Belayneh who went through a lot of supposed vetting are, unfortunately, more common that most might think. Some might actually have come through the border; the ICE HRVWCC doesn’t provide breakdowns by method of entry.
According to the HRVWCC website, since 2003, agents have arrested more than 380 individuals for human rights-related violators, and obtained or facilitated removal orders for 903 “known or suspected” human rights violators from the United States.
As of October 2022, the HRVWCC had more than 160 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and was working 1,750 leads of suspects from 95 different countries. Over the past year, the center’s investigators have rolled up Rwandan war criminals who got in by simply making up a name and date of birth and a Gambian torturer who was part of a government militia known as “the Junglers.”
The greatest-ever percentage of those reaching the southern border these days, more than 40 percent, do not hail from Central America or Mexico but from 150 other countries. On the trails from Panama to Texas over the past two years, I have met U.S.-bound Africans from Mauritania, Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leon, Somalia, Burkina Faso, Angola, and from Liberia, where war criminals like “Jungle Jabbah” committed unspeakable atrocities and then found years of peaceful sanctuary in the bosom of America’s immigration system.
Eating the hearts of victims
His real name is Mohammed Jabbateh, and he had been a resident of Philadelphia for nearly 20 years after arriving from Liberia and claiming asylum in 1998.
He was among thousands of Liberians who fled the wars and resettled in Pennsylvania. But in the life he left in Liberia, Jungle Jabbah served as a commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy during that country’s first civil war, from 1989 to 1997. ICE’s HRVWCC finally rooted him out. Investigators found that during his “service,” Jabbateh and his soldiers wantonly murdered civilian noncombatants, sexually enslaved women, tortured and executed prisoners of war, and desecrated corpses. The also ritually ate their victims.
He would have hearts cut from chests and cooked for his soldiers to eat, according to testimony from Jabbateh’s 2017 immigration fraud trial in Pennsylvania. In one instance, fighters under his command murdered a villager, removed his heart and ordered the town chief’s wife to cook it, then killed the town chief and forced her to cook his heart.
This was the man who easily lied his way on immigration applications to 20 years of sanctuary as a neighbor to American citizens until HRVWCC caught up to him and he landed a 30-year prison sentence in 2019 – at considerable investigative and prosecutorial time and expense to U.S. taxpayers to root him out.
He “committed acts of such violence and depravity that they are almost beyond belief,” U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain said in a 2018 press release announcing the prison sentence for immigration fraud. “This man is responsible for atrocities that will ripple for generations in Liberia.”
Lately, Pennsylvania’s Liberian war criminals seem to command an outsized portion of ICE interest. In June 2022, they were all over Moses Slanger Wright of Philadelphia.
His past caught up to him only in June 2022, when federal prosecutors in Philadelphia indicted the 69-year-old Liberian for lying all over his refugee and immigration applications for years, the most recent being a final citizenship bid. What was he allegedly lying about so successfully for years since the United States granted him asylum in 2000? During Liberia’s first civil war, from 1989 to 1997, he allegedly served as the “commanding general” in President Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia.
“Wright either personally committed or ordered Armed Forces of Liberia troops under his command to commit numerous atrocities, including…the persecution, murder, and assault of civilian noncombatant Gio and Mano tribesmen, as well as false arrest and false imprisonment of civilian combatants,” the indictment alleged.
General Dragon Master
Among other Liberians who lied their way into American sanctuary was “General Dragon Master,” Laye Sekou Camara, who was among thousands of Liberian civil war refugees who resettled in the Philadelphia region after the western African nation’s wars.
General Dragon Master got into the country in 2011 on an asylum claim and won a green card in 2012. A May 2022 indictment accuses Camara of lying on various immigration forms to cover up the fact that he led a rebel group called Liberians United For Reconciliation and Democracy, or LURD, which fought against Taylor in Liberia’s second civil war from 1999-2003.
“The defendant in this case is alleged to have served as a high-ranking general for a rebel group that fought in the Second Liberian Civil War, all the while employing tactics of unimaginable brutality, including the recruitment of child soldiers,” said William S. Walker, Special Agent in Charge of the Homeland Security Investigations Philadelphia Field Office, in a press statement.
Forcing children to torture and murder his victims
Then there was Eddie Yenner Murphy Karpolah, just deported back to Liberia in June 2022. Murphy was “infamous for forcing children to kill and torture” when he commanded a unit of the so-called National Patriotic Front of Liberia, an ICE statement said. Karpolah also ran a unit in the Liberian National Police Special Operations Division with a telling nickname:
“Sons of the Devil.”
Karpolah got into the United States in a most unusual way where blame lay squarely on the shoulders of federal authorities. In 2008, federal authorities granted him entry to serve as a defense witness in the Miami, Florida criminal trial of yet another Liberian war criminal, Roy Belfast Jr., aka “Chuckie” Taylor, the son of the former president Charles Taylor, on torture charges.
Federal immigration authorities let Karpolah into the country despite easy-to-obtain information that he was a wanted fugitive in Liberia; he’d been living in The Netherlands when the invitation to testify arrived.
Karpola immediately fled his hotel room and disappeared. After ICE listed him as a fugitive, he filed for asylum, which allowed him to continue living in the country for years. It would be five more long years before an immigration judge could order Karoleh removed.
Discarded African identity documents on the Rio Grande
Many more Africans crossing the southern border hail from other atrocity-ravaged nations whose citizens are up from temporary protected status, knowing this administration will let them right in without even identification and probably very little vetting.
I have discovered their identification and passports along the Rio Grande at popular crossing points, discarded by those who did not want the Americans to know who they are or where they have been.
What’s the problem with granting refuge to people fleeing from terrible places like that? The answer is informed by the inescapable fact that even when border flows are relatively low and managed, American homeland security agencies are challenged to ever discern persecuted from persecutor.
But the border descended into utter pandemonium the day after Biden took office and instituted policies that caused an unprecedented human gold rush to it. A safe bet is that, because of President Biden’s historic mass migration border crisis, Americans will discover for years to come, to their lasting horror, that the next door neighbors who showed up with stories of having escaped terrible persecutions back in Africa were the human monsters.