Senior leaders of the far-right Hungarian group Vitézi Rend—listed by the State Department as having been “under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany” during World War II—tell the Forward that Sebastian Gorka, President Trump’s top counter-terrorism advisor, is a lifelong sworn member of their order.
Here are four things you need to know about why that’s important:
1) Gorka is an immigrant to America who only obtained U.S. citizenship in 2012. But the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual cites the Vitézi Rend as one of a number of groups whose members “are presumed to be inadmissible” to the country under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
2) Individuals who apply for both visas and citizenship are specifically asked to name all organizations they belong to due to the government’s interest in scrutinizing those affiliated with extremist groups, and in particular those on the State Department’s list.
3) Gorka has so far refused to respond to reporters who are asking whether he is, indeed, a member, and if he disclosed his reported Vitézi Rend affiliation on these forms.
4) According Bruce Einhorn, a professor of immigration and nationality law at Pepperdine University, Gorka’s immigration status could be imperiled if he failed to disclose membership in the Vitézi Rend while applying for immigration or citizenship. Einhorn worked for 17 years as an immigration judge. Before that, he was deputy director at the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations. The unit, which has since been disbanded, was charged with finding and deporting Nazis and members of other extremist groups who entered America illegally by lying about or hiding their background. “My view is that it would be a legitimate case—difficult and challenging, but I believe winnable,” said Einhorn.
Larry Cohler-Esses is the Forward’s senior investigative writer. He joined the staff in December 2008. Previously, he served as Editor-at-Large for the Jewish Week, an investigative reporter for the New York Daily News, and as a staff writer for the Jewish Week as well as the Washington Jewish Week. Larry has written extensively on the Arab-Jewish relations both in the United States and the Middle East. His articles have won awards from the Society for Professional Journalists, the Religious Newswriters Association, the New York Press Association and the Rockower Awards for Jewish Journalism, among others. Larry Cohler-Esses can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.