Fact Check

Fatima Noor Appointed to Homeland Security

Fatima Noor, a foreign-born Muslim woman, worked for the DHS but wasn't appointed by President Obama to be Assistant Director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration.

Published Dec 10, 2014

President Obama appointed Fatima Noor as the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security.
What's True

Fatima Noor once worked as a special assistant in the Office of the Director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

What's False

Noor wasn't appointed by President Obama, she was not an Assistant Director at USCIS, and she didn't approve citizenship or passport applications.

On 3 July 2014, the University of Memphis announced three of their graduate students, including a woman named Fatima Noor, had landed full-time positions with the Obama administration:

Fatima Noor will be a special assistant in the Office of the Director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the Department of Homeland Security beginning July 28.

Noor majored in psychology with minors in Spanish and international relations. She recently completed a month-long research fellowship in psychology hosted by Carnegie-Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh; her research will be ongoing for this program. Noor was a leader in many honor societies at the U of M. She has done volunteer work with World Relief Memphis and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.

The announcement stirred up consternation in some circles because Noor appears Muslim in pictures: She does not identify her religious affiliation on her LinkedIn profile, but she was photographed wearing a hijab for her profile on the Muslim Media Network. This circumstance prompted the disreputable Before It's News web site to publish an article titled "ALERT! Obama Appointment Fatima Noor Asst Director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration! WHAT!" on 31 August 2014. The article quoted directly from the University of Memphis announcement but incorrectly identified Noor's position at USCIS as "assistant director."

Fatima Noor was born in war-torn Somalia but was relocated to a refugee camp in Kenya early in childhood, grew up living in the care of a relative in Denmark, was eventually reunited with her parents and siblings in Memphis after her father settled in Tennessee as a refugee, and became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. in 2013:

I was born in Somalia, but mostly what I remember are flashes of a carefree child, happily unaware of the world beyond the Utanga Refugee Camp in Kenya.

My family, like many others, faced tough decisions. One was whether to return to Somalia in the height of civil war. Another was whether to send their small child — me — to live with a relative in a far-off land in hopes of better opportunities.

Soon, I found myself in a kindergarten class in Denmark.

In the early 2000s, my father made his way out of Somalia, alone. He came to the United States as a refugee. He lived in Texas, but driving trucks gave him the opportunity to explore America's frontiers: from the snowy Northwest to the humid Southeast. He decided to settle in the latter, and started the paperwork to bring my mother and brothers from Somalia and me from Denmark.

In 2005, my whole family reunited in our new home: Memphis, Tennessee. We soon adapted to Southern living (and yummy Memphis barbecue). We bought a house down by the Mississippi River. My brother even attended the same middle school as Elvis Presley. I graduated from the University of Memphis.

On the morning of April 29, 2013, I returned to the same auditorium where I had received my high school diploma a few years earlier. Now, I was among 500 people. We each went up on stage, before a panel of immigration judges, and stated our full name and country of origin. In the audience, we all stood, raised our right hands and recited the Oath of Allegiance.

On July 28, 2014, I was sworn in as special assistant to the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS naturalizes more than 700,000 new U.S. citizens each year, along with processing millions of other immigration-related requests. USCIS is the very agency that made it possible for my family to immigrate, and for all of us to become citizens.

According to the Memphis Business Journal, the position landed by Noor (she was not "appointed" by President Obama himself, nor was she assigned a high-level position) was one typically filled by graduates of Ivy League schools. Rosie Phillips Bingham, vice president for Student Affairs at the University of Memphis, said of Noor's appointment:

The University of Memphis graduates exceptional students who make significant differences in the world. These three students are stellar examples. They competed with students from the country's most elite institutions and they prevailed. More importantly, these three will do a superior job for the Obama administration.

Of course, the heart of this item is an expression of mistrust that someone who is both foreign-born and a Muslim should be employed by the Department of Homeland Security, a position from which she could supposedly facilitate the admittance of fellow travelers (i.e., terrorists) into the U.S. — even though she has spent virtually all of her life living in Western democratic countries and is a U.S. citizen. We note that her description of her USCIS duties hardly lends credence to that notion, as she was not involved in reviewing or approving citizenship or passport applications:

In my position, I coordinated special naturalization ceremonies. These commemorate national holidays or other special events and feature prominent speakers, guests, and locations.

In a 29 June 2015 White House blog post, Fatima Noor is now described as a Policy Analyst for Immigration and Rural Affairs.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

Article Tags