Homeland Security must reveal the full extent of terrorism risks at the southern border and explain why it deleted a press statement that exposed at least two terror-related arrests, Rep. Andy Biggs said in a new letter Wednesday.
The Arizona Republican asked Customs and Border Protection to reveal who ordered the statement to be taken down, and wondered whether the directive came from the White House itself “because the information contained in the press release contradicted White House talking points that there is no crisis at the border.”
Mr. Biggs, who was traveling in Texas for a first-hand look at the border Wednesday, said he wants to know how many migrants on terrorism watch lists have been nabbed since Inauguration Day, and how many were caught in the years before.
Given the national security risks posed by aliens who are affiliated with terrorist groups entering our country, I hope that you will provide me with the requested information as soon as possible,” he wrote to Troy Miller, who is acting commissioner of CBP.
CBP’s release, posted Monday, had revealed that two Yemeni men on the terrorism watch list have been caught in California in the weeks since President Biden took office.
That confirmed claims by Republican lawmakers during a trip to the border last month.
DOCUMENT: Letter from Rep. Andy Biggs to CBP
A copy of the release is still available on the Internet Archive web page.
According to the release, one Yemeni man was arrested last week near Calexico, California. The 26-year-old was found to be on both the FBI’s terrorism watch list and the no-fly list.
The other man was arrested near Calexico early in the morning on Jan. 29, just days after President Biden was inaugurated. That 33-year-old was also on both the watch list and the no-fly list.
Agents also pointedly revealed that they found a cellular phone sim card concealed under the man’s shoe insole.
If the administration’s goal was to withdraw the information from the public realm, the deletion appears to have had the exact opposite effect. News of the deletion — and attention to the terror-related arrests — surged across the internet Tuesday.
Mr. Biggs said the deletion was even “more troubling” than the announcement itself.
Todd Bensman, author of “America’s Covert Border War: The Untold Story of the Nation’s Battle to Prevent Jihadist Infiltration,” said U.S. intelligence agencies view the threat of terrorist infiltration across the border as real.
“Every year, about 20 migrants on U.S. terror watch lists are caught at, or on their way to, the American border,” he wrote in a piece Wednesday for the Investigative Project on Terrorism.
He also said “many who are not on any watch list” but are later found to be connected to terrorist organizations are also encountered.
Some are arrested after arrival, but others are stopped as they make their way up the spine of the Americas, traveling a route from South America through Central America and Mexico. Mr. Bensman said migrants on the U.S. watch lists have been nabbed in Nicaragua, Guatemala and Costa Rica.