Switching to a merit-based immigration system, rather than the family chain system that allowed New York City pipe bomb suspect Akayed Ullah to enter the United States, is vital to help keep further such attacks from occurring, DOJ Director of Public Affairs Sarah Isgur Flores said Tuesday.
"This is what the president ran on during his campaign," Flores told Fox News' "Fox and Friends" program. "This is about changing our immigration system. It's about securing the border so we no longer have illegal immigration and about fixing our legal immigration system."
On Monday, just hours after Ullah was arrested after a pipe bomb he'd attached to his body detonated in a subway corridor near Times Square, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said he would have been kept out of the country if President Donald Trump's proposal to end chain migration was in effect.
The president says the United States should give more weight to the value of skills potential immigrants would bring, rather than allowing them to come to the country when they have relatives living here. Ullah, 27, came to the United States from Bangladesh 2011 on a family immigrant visa and is a legal resident.
"If his policy had been in place, then the attacker would not have come into the country," Sanders said at her daily White House press briefing.
Flores said the United States is currently not bringing in people who are most likely to succeed in the United States, like other countries such as Canada and Australia do.
"Instead, 9.3 million people have come in the last 10 years and 70 percent of those have been through chain migration," said Flores. "The president ran on this. He won and he has asked congress to fix this system. This is why it's just not an economic problem. It's a national security problem."
On Monday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called on the government to treat Ullah as an enemy combatant, not as a criminal, but Flores said the Justice Department has successfully prosecuted at least 500 terrorism-related suspects since the 9/11 attacks, and nearly three-quarters of those were foreign-born.
"I do think that when we want to look on how to prevent this moving forward, which has to be our number one homeland security goal, preventing terrorism is about fixing our legal immigration system, and bringing in people with the highest likelihood to flourish in this country," she said.
Flores added that she does not agree that skipping the reading of Miranda rights to a suspect like Ullah will net extra intelligence for the United States.
"Some people are read their Miranda rights and still wants to tell us everything that they have done," she said. "We have prosecuted these cases before. You have some of the best prosecutors in the world in the Southern District of New York, and some of the best officers in the NYPD and the FBI."
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