Washington (CNSNews.com) – Eight members of the House of Representatives have signed a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, urging her not to deport the son of the founder of the terrorist group Hamas. The son, Mosab Hassan Yousef, became a spy for the Israeli government in the late 1990s and reportedly stopped several terrorist attacks.
In 2009, the United States rejected Yousef's petition for asylum. Yousef, who converted from Islam to Christianity, would likely be in danger if forced to return to the West Bank, which is run by the Palestinian Authority and borders Israel, Jordan and the Dead Sea.
The letter, circulated by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), tells Napolitano “to take in all the evidence” about the case.
“[W]e ask that full consideration be given to Mr. Yousef’s views and conduct in recent years, particularly his cooperation with Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] at significant risk to his own safety and life,” the letter said.
“We understand that Mr. Yousef’s Shin Bet handler will attest to Mr. Yousef’s courageous work to prevent acts of terror, as well as attest that Mr. Yousef harbors no loyalty to or affiliation with a foreign terrorist organization,” it added.
The letter was co-signed by Republican Reps. Trent Franks of Arizona, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Bill Posey of Florida, Kenny Marchant of Texas, Rob Bishop of Utah, John Kline of Minnesota and John Shadegg of Arizona.
The letter continues, “Mr. Yousef’s conversion to Christianity and work with Israeli intelligence services would place Mr. Yousef in grave danger should he be forced to return to the Middle East.”
A Department of Homeland Security official told CNSNews.com that the department cannot discuss individual cases on the record. The official also said that under the letter of the law, the department’s hands are tied.
Yousef was honored Wednesday night on Capitol Hill as the keynote speaker at the “Rays of Light in the Darkness” dinner sponsored by the Endowment for Middle East Truth, a pro-Israel group.
“I personally switched gods,” Yousef said during his remarks to the gathering. He later said he is frequently asked why he left Islam. His answer: “Because the god of Islam doesn’t like music, Jews, Christians or Muslims. The god of Islam is the biggest enemy of Muslims.”
This, Yousef said, is because people become enslaved to radical Islamic beliefs that promote hate and violence. He expressed his concerns about the plight of his fellow Palestinians, but he said their culture must change for their condition to improve.
“What would happen if Israel disappeared from the map?” he asked hypothetically. “Would we have peace in the Middle East? The Palestinians would kill each other.”
Yousef, who wrote about his life’s journey in the book “Son of Hamas,” spoke sparingly about the deportation matter Wednesday. He declined to do an interview with CNSNews.com until after the June 30 deportation hearing in U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review in San Diego, before Judge Rico Bartolomei.
Yousef’s father Sheikh Hassan Yousef has disowned his son from an Israeli prison, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz. Meanwhile, Yousef’s handler in Shin Bet has confirmed Yousef’s work for Israel and will be appearing at his deportation hearing to speak on his behalf.
Yousef came to the United States in 2007. His request for asylum was rejected in February 2009. The Wall Street Journal reported that Department of Homeland Security lawyer Kerri Calcador stated in a letter that information from the book – about material support to Hamas – was grounds for deportation.
“At a bare minimum, evidence of the respondent's transport of Hamas members to safe houses … indicates that the respondent provided material support to a [Tier I] terrorist organization,” the Calcador letter said, according to the Journal.
Lamborn said he and his colleagues want to assure a fair process for Yousef. If that is done, he said, he thinks the facts will clearly show Yousef deserves to stay in the United States.
“If they look at the facts, they’ll see that Mr. Yousef is not a supporter of any terrorist organization whatsoever,” Lamborn said. “In fact, he was a double agent working to thwart the objectives of Hamas. He single-handedly prevented a number of suicide bombings to save lives. So, rather than being a member of Hamas, he was working to expose their bombing plans and prevent them.
“So he is the kind of person we should welcome into the country,” said Lamborn. “If he was sent back to the Palestinian territories, he wouldn’t live very much longer. We should give him asylum in this country.”
Though he is not a signatory to the letter, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) is concerned about Yousef’s situation.
“He faces the risk of death and torture if he goes back to the West Bank,” Sherman told CNSNews.com. “The argument that he has provided material assistance to Hamas is absurd in light of all the things he’s done to harm Hamas.
“And he is an intelligence asset worthy of – if the book is even mostly true – he’s a valuable intelligence asset. Whether you look at the intelligence asset visa or the asylum visa, if the facts as popularly believed are true, he qualifies in several different ways,” Sherman added.
Whether the move to deport Yousef is wrong depends on the government’s motives, said Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, a national security think tank.
“If what they are doing is going through due-diligence to establish that he is in fact authentically a man who broke with and worked against a terrorist organization and had, as a result, allowed him to stay in this country on the basis of real service to the Western world, then I have no trouble with this exercise,” Gaffney told CNSNews.com.
Alan Keyes, a former ambassador and presidential candidate, said the administration’s motives are more clearly anti-Israel.
“It seems to me we are living in a time when people who work for the U.S. government are sending all kinds of signals to suggest there is now a kind of free-fire zone against folks who are sympathetic to and supportive of Israel and the U.S. relationship with Israel and all that that represents,” Keyes told CNSNews.com. “I think the idea of the deportation sadly confirms all of that.”
Whatever the government’s intent, Sarah Stern, president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, seemed to sum up the feelings of the attendees at the dinner when she said from the podium in her closing remarks, “He should get a Nobel Prize. He should certainly not be deported.”