Report: Syrians, Palestinians Purchasing Honduran Identities to Obtain U.S. Visas

Tegucigalpa, November 24, 2015.

Dozens of Palestinian, Syrian, and foreign nationals from other Middle Eastern countries have been fraudulently registered as as Honduran citizens —  enabling them to obtain Honduran passports and apply for visas to the U.S. — according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

In a blog post published Friday, CIS research associate Kausha Luna highlights recent Spanish-language media reports investigating the sale of Honduran identities to Palestinian and Syrian nationals.

According to Luna, the Honduran newspaper La Prensa details how foreign nationals from countries on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean have been able to obtain Honduran identities via a complex smuggling operation that coordinates with officials inside Honduras’ National Registry of Persons (RNP) to falsify birth certificates.

La Prensa, CIS reports, highlights the case of Kareen Samer Abdulhadi, a Palestinian national who attempted to obtain a Honduran passport at the nation’s consulate in Barcelona, Spain.

“Further investigation by consular staff revealed that in 2013 there had been an unauthorized intrusion and alteration in the database of birth registrations of one of the municipal records back in Honduras, which allowed the Palestinian to be documented as Honduran,” Luna’s post reads.

Additionally, not only had Abdulhadi been able to obtain a false Honduran identity, but so too had his father, who went on to register at least eight additional family members.

“Subsequent investigations established that Abdulhadi’s case is only the tip of the iceberg of an organized crime network with international ties to smugglers and RNP officials, who were able to illegally register at least one hundred Palestinians and Syrians with fraudulent documentation,” the CIS report reads. “The smuggling network operates by falsifying birth certificates on Hondurans who have not gotten their identity card or people now deceased.”

According to CIS, the conspiracy operates in specific areas in Honduras and while there have been other cases of nationals from Colombia and Cameroon fraudulently registering as Hondurans, the volume of Middle Eastern registrations is unprecedented. Additionally, an anonymous source close to the investigation told La Prensa that many of the Palestinians and Syrians registered as Hondurans sought to use that status to obtain tourist visas to the U.S.

“The newspaper contacted the U.S. embassy regarding this matter, but it declined to confirm or deny the information above,” Luna writes. “I also called the embassy this week and the operator who answered hung up when I asked about the matter.”

The development, as Luna writes, is concerning amid ongoing threats to U.S. national security from abroad.

“The following questions must be raised: for every Abdulhadi that is denied a Honduran passport, how many are granted one?” she continued. “For those who fraudulently attain a Honduran passport, how many successfully acquire a U.S. visa? A document breach, such as the one in the Honduran RNP, presents yet another obstacle to the United States’ ability to properly vet individuals.”