In a Friday memo issued by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency’s San Diego Field Office’s intelligence unit, concerns were raised regarding the potential risk of foreign terrorist fighters seeking entry into the United States through the southern border. The memo, obtained by Fox News, highlights the possibility that individuals inspired by or reacting to the Israel-Hamas conflict might attempt to use circuitous routes across the Southwest border for travel to or from conflict zones in the Middle East.
The memo specifically mentions the groups Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Hezbollah as potential concerns. It provides indicators that CBP staff should be vigilant for, including the presence of military-age males, possession of military gear, individuals traveling alone, an uncertain return plan, and an association with the conflict-ridden region.
These concerns come at a time when the United States is already grappling with a record number of migrants from various parts of the world arriving at the southern border, which is placing considerable strain on Border Patrol agents. The recent violence in Israel initiated by Hamas has reignited fears that foreign terrorist fighters might exploit the porous border to gain access to the United States and potentially launch attacks on U.S. soil.
The attacks on Israel by Iran-backed terrorists only emphasizes the urgent need for us to secure the southern border.
— Office of Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (@RepMalliotakis) October 21, 2023
However, it’s worth noting that a CBP spokesperson, while acknowledging the memo’s existence, emphasized that there is no evidence of Hamas-directed foreign fighters attempting to enter the United States. The agency’s policy is to neither confirm nor discuss potentially improperly disclosed information or internal documents marked as law enforcement sensitive or for official use only. They clarified that situational awareness briefs are not threat assessments.
Official statistics released over the weekend reveal that in Fiscal Year 2023, a record number of 169 individuals on the terror watch list were encountered by Border Patrol agents at the southern border, surpassing the total encounters from the last six fiscal years combined. The Terrorist Screening Dataset, formerly known as the watch list, includes information about known or suspected terrorists and their affiliates.
Very disturbing report from CBP. We have already had 172 individuals cross the border this year who were on the terror watch list. The House passed H.R. 2 several months ago. The Senate must take up border security before it’s too late.https://t.co/CrHCeBHjlF
— Congressman Mike Lawler (@RepMikeLawler) October 23, 2023
The Department of Homeland Security’s threat assessment for Fiscal Year 2024 has pointed out the growing number of watch-listed individuals encountered at the border and highlighted the potential risk of terrorists and criminal actors exploiting the increased flow and complex security environment to enter the United States.
Republicans, however, remain unconvinced by the assurances from the CBP and have reiterated their concerns about the national security implications of the situation at the southern border. They argue that the current state of the border represents a significant threat to the nation’s security.