Homeland Security Denied Access to Suspect Associated with San Bernardino Terrorist Attack

In the aftermath of the San Bernardino terrorist attack that claimed 14 lives on December 2, 2015 Homeland Security agents scrambled to locate alleged gun supplier Enrique Marquez.

In the day following the attack, a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit was dispatched to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office where Marquez and his wife, Mariya Chernyk, were scheduled for interview. Yet, the HSI’s efforts to detain Marquez were thwarted when USCIS Field Office Director Irene Martin denied agents access.

Part of a government report detailing the incident was published by the Daily Mail, on June 7, 2016 which read, “We concluded that the USCIS Field Office Director at the San Bernardino office improperly delayed HSI agents from conducting a lawful and routine law enforcement action, but when the Field Office Director elevated the situation to her supervisors, the situation was corrected.”

The report claimed that upon arriving at the USCIS office, HSI agents were kept waiting as Federal Protective Service (FPS) officials sought Martin’s authorization to allow the HSI to apprehend Marquez. From there, Martin refused to permit the HSI to interfere without approval from her supervisors because such action would violate USCIS policy. Martin disputes this claim.

Further aggravating the situation, Martin asserted that she was initially unaware the HSI was looking for Marquez and Chernyk in association with the San Bernardino massacre. What’s more, when Martin finally agreed to surrender the couple, she discovered they weren’t even in the building.

Despite this clash between the HSI and the USCIS, Marquez was ultimately charged with several counts of terrorism-related crimes linking him to the San Bernardino attack plot. As for Martin, her only reprimand was reassignment to another USCIS office.