Border Crisis: Biden Administration Faces Backlash Over Terrorist Encounters

In recent months, the Biden administration’s immigration policies have come under scrutiny due to the alarming number of encounters with individuals on the terror watchlist at the U.S. southern border.

Last Tuesday, Republican lawmakers confronted Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas, demanding answers about a known Somalian terrorist who had been allowed to roam freely in the United States for nearly a year. This individual, “a confirmed member of al Shabaab,” was initially apprehended by Border Patrol agents in California in March 2023. However, a mistake during the terror watchlist screening led to his release. Eventually, Immigration and Customs Enforcement apprehended him in Minnesota in January.

The letter from Republican lawmakers states, “Due to Minnesota’s far distance from the border, it is not an easy task for migrants to travel to the state.”

“Did the al-Shabbab terrorist travel to Minnesota with the assistance, either direct or indirect of an [Non-Governmental Organization]? If so, which NGO was responsible for transporting the individual to Minnesota?”

Just last month, Border Patrol agents arrested Basel Bassel Ebbadian, an illegal migrant from Lebanon who openly admitted his affiliation with Hezbollah and expressed intentions to “try to make a bomb” in the United States.

The Border Patrol’s records reveal a troubling trend. Since October 2023, there have been 70 encounters with individuals on the terror watchlist. In the preceding 12 months, that number was even higher: 172 encounters.

Many terrorists exploit vulnerabilities in border security. Some pay cartels to facilitate their crossing in areas where they are less likely to be stopped. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 860,000 “gotaways” occurred in FY 2023 alone.

FBI Director Christopher Wray recently warned Congress about a smuggling network with ties to ISIS that capitalizes on the Biden administration’s open-border policy, calling it “a threat stream that we’re very concerned about.”

A recent Department of Homeland Security report highlights an alarming trend: an increase in migration from Special Interest Countries, which are regions flagged for terrorism concerns. During the first half of the 2024 fiscal year, nearly 25,000 migrants, primarily single adult males from these regions, were detained while attempting to enter the U.S. This represents a six percent increase compared to the numbers from 2023. Most of these migrants were released into the U.S. pending asylum claims.

Turkey stands out as the primary source of these migrants, with approximately 7,000 apprehensions since October. Additionally, migrants from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania have surged, with over 4,300 interceptions during the same period, marking a 65 percent year-on-year increase. Mauritania was previously flagged by the State Department as a high-risk zone due to crime and terrorism.