House Republicans demand probe of hundreds of terror watchlist migrants entering US

by Josh Christenson
New York Post
May 2, 2024

Three House Republicans are demanding a federal probe of reports that hundreds of migrants flagged on the terror watchlist have entered the US — and want to know where the new arrivals are now.

The members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and House Homeland Security Committee asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a Tuesday letter exclusively obtained by The Post to identify migrants from the Terrorist Screening Data Set who are trying to come into the country at and between ports of entry — and those who have already been released into the US.

Intel Chairman Mike Turner (R-Ohio), Intel member French Hill (R-Ark.) and Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green (R-Tenn.) told GAO comptroller general Gene Dodaro to open an investigation after the FBI and other intelligence agencies failed to provide answers.

The letter questions how many known suspected terrorists — and their associates or family members — were encountered at the Mexico border and later permitted to enter the US.

It also asks about the policies and procedures that the FBI and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) use to flag migrants on the terror watchlist, and whether the bureau surveils them after they come into the country.

“We also request that your report evaluate the above described CBP and FBI activities under existing authorities,” the Republicans said.

“For any identified shortfalls in such authorities, we further request that you develop and recommend possible legislative remedies aimed at mitigating the resulting national security risks,” they added.

In fiscal year 2023, federal authorities encountered 169 people on the terror watchlist between ports of entry and 80 at ports of entry on the southern border, according to CBP enforcement statistics.

Nearly 100 have already been flagged at and between ports of entry at the southern border since Oct. 1.

Another 630 terror suspects were encountered at the northern border in both fiscal years combined.

But those numbers only account for the known suspects who have entered or subsequently been removed, Hill noted during a March threat assessment hearing, adding that he and other lawmakers still did not know the status of the 169 encountered on the southern border.

“We don’t have any idea of how many people have crossed the border with this chaos of 7 million encounters,” he said, citing the total number of apprehensions on the US-Mexico border since President Biden took office.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revealed earlier this year that a Somali national who was a member of the terror group al Shabaab was let into the country after first being arrested in California in March 2023.

The Terrorist Screening Center initially deemed him a “mismatch” — despite being connected to the use, manufacture or transportation of explosives or firearms — and took a year to discover its error and re-arrest him.

Hill drew attention to the case and said the 27-year-old terror suspect “wasn’t really apprehended or known about until he used his real identity documents to try to get a job,” citing January testimony from ICE Director Patrick Lechleitner.

The Arkansas Republican asked FBI Director Christopher Wray during the threat hearing whether FBI field offices nationwide were notified of terror suspects and other persons put on no-fly lists.

“The way the system works, they should be,” Wray said. “I can’t tell you that it’s happened in every instance.”

Wray added that the “bigger concern” are migrants who present “fake documents” leaving authorities with no “biometrics, fingerprints or otherwise to match them against.”

Hill pointed out that Border Patrol processed 6,000 people in a single day on the southern border with “no documentation process” during a January trip when he and dozens of other members of Congress observed the scene at Eagle Pass, Texas.

“No biometrics, no photo, no interview, no run against the list, no checking of documents,” he said. “They just passed them through into the US.”

“The American people are saying, ‘Where are they?’” he added, earning a commitment from Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to provide the information.

Other terror suspects have been deported after their initial arrests at the border, including one member of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah who admitted to Border Patrol agents in El Paso, Texas, that he was planning to head to New York and was trying “to make a bomb.

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