PHOENIX - How did a man who is accused of being an Al-Qaeda hit squad leader in 2006 live legally in the valley for more than a decade? That's what many are asking after Ali Ahmed was arrested in connection to the murders of two Iraqi police officers.
An immigration attorney tells FOX 10 Wednesday that it takes years sometimes to be approved as a refugee, and that a refugee needs to show proof they're being persecuted.
Iraqi authorities claim Ahmed lead an Al-Qaeda hit squad that killed two officers in Fallujah in 2006, he was shot in the side of the face as a result of the alleged incident.
That wound may have helped him become a refugee in Arizona, according to immigration attorney, Gabriel Vadasz, at Diamondback Legal Law Firm.
Last week, the A-Plus Driving School instructor was arrested, accused in the 2 murders more than a decade ago, continents away.
Vadasz says to even start the refugee claim, there's an hours-long interview where the applicant has to prove they've been persecuted. "The reality is, you have to show a substantial amount of evidence just to pass most of those interviews and get to the point you're submitting the application," Vadasz says. "If someone's been shot, the bullet wounds speak for themselves."
Jabir Algarawi with RICE, a nonprofit that helps refugees get settled, said Ahmed told him he "hated extremists." Ahmed claimed he was a victim of Al-Qaeda, not a member, he said.
"He had a bullet in his body and a scar on his body. He got shot, that's true," Algarawi said. "Multiple times." Ahmed told him he was accepted as a refuge in 2008 after a year-long application process.
Since 2008, far fewer refugees have gained entrance to the United States. That year, the federal government says 18,838 Iraqi refugees were accepted.
In 2019: 140.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says they don't comment on individual cases.
Ahmed's attorney says the evidence against her client is information from just a few witnesses who "have nothing to lose."