CBP Released Illegal Immigrant on FBI Terrorist Watchlist after Arizona Arrest

In the latest national security blow to come out of the southwest border U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehended and subsequently released an illegal immigrant on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) terrorist watchlist. CBP arrested the migrant, whose gender is not being identified by authorities, and their family in Yuma, Arizona and supposedly screened them for national security threats. Based on the information provided by CBP, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) determined that the migrant was an inconclusive terrorist watchlist match and the frontline Homeland Security agency released the illegal alien. A few days later, the suspect and family members checked in at the Palm Springs International Airport in California for a flight to Tampa, Florida and during pre-flight screening the TSC obtained additional information from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that “confirmed the migrant was a positive Terrorist Watchlist match,” according to a heavily redacted federal audit. It took another two weeks for the feds to finally arrest the illegal immigrant, according to the report.

The document was recently made public with extensive redactions by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General, which concluded that “CBP’s ineffective practices and processes for resolving inconclusive matches with the Terrorist Watchlist led to multiple mistakes.” As an example, investigators write that CBP sent a request to interview the migrant to the wrong electronic mail address, obtained information requested by the TSC but never shared it, and released the migrant before fully coordinating with the FBI screening center. “Once the migrant was identified as a positive match with the Terrorist Watchlist, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prioritized arresting the migrant but faced multiple challenges sharing information within ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations while planning and conducting the arrest,” the report states. When ICE finally received the necessary information, it safely apprehended the illegal alien, the report confirms.

In all, the foreigner on the terrorist watchlist was free in the U.S. for more than two weeks while the feds sorted out their inept system for keeping the nation safe. The DHS watchdog found that CBP missed multiple opportunities to help the TSC verify the migrant was a “positive Terrorist Watchlist match before releasing the migrant.” Because such large chunks of the report are redacted, specifics of how CBP dropped the ball are not available, but it appears to be a broad problem at the agency that is hardly limited to this case. That is why the DHS IG conducted the probe to review CBP’s screening process of a suspected terrorist and the timing of ICE’s subsequent arrest following the suspected terrorist’s release in the U.S. “If CBP’s ineffective practices for resolving inconclusive Terrorist Watchlist matches continue, the component risks releasing individuals into the United States who potentially threaten national security and public safety,” the report states. Despite the omitted portions, the document does a solid job explaining that CBP released the migrant without sharing information that would have confirmed the terrorist watchlist match.

The public disclosure of this inconceivable case comes on the heels of equally distressing information involving terrorists and the famously porous southern border. Just a few weeks ago, Judicial Watch reported that a record number of foreigners who appear on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) have been caught trying to enter the U.S. through Mexico. In April alone federal agents caught 16 illegal immigrants who appear on the TSDB trying to enter the country through the southern border, according to the latest government figures. The TSDB contains thousands of records that are updated daily and shared with federal state, local, territorial, and tribal law enforcement as well as the intelligence community and international partners to “ensure that individuals with links to terrorism are appropriately screened,” according to the FBI. The April figure is more than the total terrorists caught in four previous years—2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 combined. With about three months till the end of the fiscal year, Border Patrol agents have already encountered 98 migrants that appear on the TSDB list.

The new probe exposing how the nation’s frontline Homeland Security agency handles potential terrorists who cross into the U.S. through the largely unsecured southern border should concern all Americans. Incredibly, the DHS, created after 9/11 to prevent another terrorist attack, seems most concerned with the new report’s title misleading readers into believing that CBP knowingly released an individual on the terrorist watchlist. The watchdog stands by its probe, explaining that the document’s title, “CBP Released a Migrant on a Terrorist Watchlist,” is accurate and supported in the report findings.

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