When Portland high school student Fallon Smart was hit and killed by a speeding driver while walking across Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard at 43rd Avenue in August 2016 it hit our community hard. I still remember sitting on the curb at her memorial ride, surrounded by hundreds of people — including her family and friends — and just crying. I felt a mix of sadness, regret (for not doing more to prevent it), and anger at a system that contributed to such a tragic loss.
Those feelings turned into activism as our community pressured the City of Portland to improve the safety of the crossing — on a stretch of Hawthorne that had well-known hazards. Then about one year after Smart was killed, we learned that the man whose reckless speeding was the cause of her death, Abdulrahman Noorah, was still on the run. Then, another gut-punch: In December 2018 The Oregonian reported that the government of Saudi Arabia helped Noorah break free of his court-ordered ankle tracker and helped him escape U.S. custody.
There would be only partial justice for Fallon Smart’s family in April 2020 when the City of Portland paid $395,000 to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed by her family. But as for Noorah, he was safely ensconced in Saudi Arabia and will likely never face the full consequence of his actions.
But hopefully this travesty of justice is never repeated. At least that’s the goal of a new federal policy that went into effect this week — nearly seven years after that sad day on Hawthorne.
For years, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden stayed on the case against Saudi Arabia for their role in this crime and pushed for action. This week he can claim major progress as a suite of new visa rules known as the “Fallon Smart Policy” go into effect.
“The Department of State is committed to deterring and promoting accountability for extraordinary foreign government involvement in aiding fugitives to evade the U.S. justice system,” said Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in a statement Wednesday. “I am announcing a new policy of visa restrictions on foreign government officials and agents who have intervened in a manner beyond the reasonable provision of consular services to assist fugitives accused or convicted of serious crimes to evade the U.S. justice system.”
And yesterday, Senator Wyden shared via Twitter that, “The loss of Fallon Smart to her family and loved ones in Portland can never be erased, but this new policy establishes genuine accountability for any foreign official who assists fugitives fleeing U.S. justice.”