DHS Official Worked With Anti-Israel Group Tied to Embattled Biden Judicial Nominee

Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia also has a history of pushing for relaxed immigration laws

Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia (Center For Renewing America/Twitter)
March 29, 2024

A top Department of Homeland Security civil rights official has previously unreported ties to a Rutgers University think tank that congressional investigators are calling a "hotbed of radical antisemitic, anti-American, anti-Israel, and pro-terrorist activity."

Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia served as a faculty affiliate of the Rutgers Law School Center for Security, Race, and Rights until she joined the Department of Homeland Security last year as officer for civil rights and civil liberties. In her current role, Wadhia advises DHS leadership on the civil rights ramifications of agency policies and leads investigations into civil rights and civil liberties complaints from members of the public.

But Wadhia's affiliation with the Rutgers center could call her fitness for the job into question. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce launched an investigation this week into Rutgers's failure to address anti-Semitic activities on campus. The investigation focuses on the Rutgers Center for Security, Race, and Rights, which has come under scrutiny amid the confirmation process for Biden judicial nominee Adeel Mangi, who served on the center's advisory board until last year.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.), a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said Wadhia's "ties to pro-terrorist groups should be completely disqualifying."

"Either the Administration isn't vetting its employees and nominees, or it simply doesn't care about their anti-Israel connections," he told the Washington Free Beacon.

Months before Wadhia joined the center, it hosted an event, marking the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, that featured Sami al-Arian, who was convicted of providing material support to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group.

The center blamed Israel's "colonial violence" and "decades of oppression" against Palestinians for the October 7 Hamas attack, which the center called "Hamas's October 7th operation." After the group's 9/11 event with al-Arian in 2021, Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer (N.J.) called to "castigate and alienate" the think tank for providing a platform to speakers "with ties to militant terrorist organizations."

That didn't deter Wadhia, who joined the center in early 2022, according to an archived version of the center's website.

Wadhia, a former Penn State law professor, has worked closely with center director Sahar Aziz, who said after the Hamas attack that "Israel & its [mainstream media] accomplices are making up so many outrageous lies to distract from its carnage in Gaza!" Aziz in May 2021 defended Hamas's attacks on Israel, signing an open letter that said, "We are in awe of the Palestinian struggle to resist violent occupation, removal, erasure, and the expansion of Israeli settler colonialism."

Wadhia has contributed over the years to Aziz's research. Aziz thanked Wadhia in 2018 for providing "insightful feedback" to her academic journal article "A Muslim Registry: The Precursor to Internment?"

Congressional investigators have highlighted the anti-Semitic remarks of some of Wadhia's fellow faculty affiliates, a title awarded to academics who work at universities other than Rutgers.

One faculty affiliate is Hatem Bazian, the cofounder of Students for Justice in Palestine. Bazian has called for "intifada" against the United States and pushed anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, including the false claim that the Israeli government harvests the organs of Palestinians.

Students for Justice in Palestine has been behind some of the most inflammatory anti-Israel protests at schools across the country, following the Hamas attack. The group's George Washington University chapter projected pro-Hamas slogans such as "glory to our martyrs" on school buildings after the attack. Gottheimer, the New Jersey Democrat, has accused the Rutgers chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine of "intimidat[ing] Jewish students."

Another faculty affiliate of the Rutgers center is Joseph Massad, a professor of Arab politics at Columbia University. Massad referred to Hamas's Oct. 7 attack as "awesome" and touted the terrorist group's use of motorized paragliders as a feat of "innovative Palestinian resistance." According to a civil rights lawsuit against Columbia, Massad asked a university student who had served in the Israel Defense Forces "how many Palestinians that student had killed."

Massad pushed anti-Israel conspiracy theories at an event with Aziz, the Rutgers center director, on Dec. 4. For instance, he claimed that Israeli armed forces—not Hamas—engaged in the "indiscriminate strafing" of music festival attendees attacked on Oct. 7.

At Penn State, Wadhia led the school's Center for Immigrants' Rights Clinic, which pushed for relaxed immigration laws. She oversaw the center's research reports, one of which included a defense of the "Holy Land Five," leaders of Islamic charities convicted of raising money for a Hamas front group.

Wadhia throughout her career has pushed for lenient immigration policies, including calling for an end to the deportation of convicted felons. She has lamented the use of the term "illegal alien" and advocated against the deportation of illegal aliens convicted of serious felonies, the Daily Caller reported.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Rutgers center did not respond to requests for comment.