Man Arrested at Capitol to Be Deported
The Capitol Police will not charge the man arrested in Monday’s standoff on the West Front with any criminal actions but said the Australian citizen had been turned over to immigration officials for deportation.
“Capitol Police will not be bringing charges against him,” said Office Michael Lauer, a department spokesman, who later added: “If he is going to be deported, we will not be pursuing charges.”
The man, identified by immigration officials as Wenhao Zhao, 33, prompted an afternoon-long shutdown of the West Front when Capitol Police became concerned that he was a suicide bomber.
Following a brief standoff, the Capitol Police Containment Emergency Response Team took Zhao into custody and later detonated one of two carry-on suitcases the Australian had with him at the time of his arrest.
Police officials did not find hazardous materials in either bag.
According to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official, Zhao, whom Capitol Police had earlier identified as Chinese, entered the United States on April 8 at Los Angeles International Airport.
ICE Public Affairs Officer Ernestine Fobs said Zhao legally entered the country using a visa waiver program. That program allows citizens of countries including Australia to visit the United States for up to 90 days without contacting the State Department for a formal visa.
“Mr. Zhao appeared to be admissible” at the time he received the visa waiver, Fobs said. “He just violated his visa waiver program.”
Under regulations governing the program, Fobs explained, visitors must agree to a “public safety provision” that mandates visitors do not act as a “threat” to the United states and likewise do not violate any U.S. laws.
Even if the Capitol Police do not charge Zhao with a crime, Fobs acknowledged, his actions Monday may be construed as a violation of the public safety provision.
“We review the case and work with other federal agencies” to make that determination, Fobs said.
Based on his participation in the visa waiver program, Zhao is not entitled to a hearing or other review process.
“We can invoke his removal as expeditiously as we can. We are working with the Australian embassy at this time,” Fobs said. There is no set date for Zhao’s deportation, but Fobs said it should take place in the near future.
Before Zhao is deported, federal immigration officials will determine whether he will be banned from returning to the United States on a temporary or permanent basis, if at all.