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Government watchdog says Customs and Border Protection released migrant on terror watchlist

A government report indicated the migrant "could pose a threat to national security" and should not have been released.
Government watchdog says CBP released migrant on terror watchlist
Posted at 2:48 PM, Jul 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-06 16:33:31-04

The Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General recently issued a partially redacted report on how Customs and Border Protection's screening process allowed someone on the terror watchlist to be released into the U.S. for a two-week period in 2022.

According to the report, Border Patrol apprehended a migrant and their family on April 17, 2022, in Arizona. A check of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Terrorist Screening Center determined the person was an inconclusive match on the terrorist watchlist. The report indicates the migrant was released on April 19, 2022. 

Two days later, the migrant and their family checked in for a flight to Tampa. During the screening, it was determined the migrant was a positive match for the terror watchlist. 

But it was not until May 6, 2022, that Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested the migrant. The report determined like CBP, ICE also had difficulties obtaining the information needed to complete the arrest. The migrant was scheduled to have an "alternatives to detention" hearing on June 1, but authorities requested this person be arrested sooner. 

The report indicated there were three concerns about the migrant's presence in the U.S. While two of those were redacted, one of those claimed the migrant "could pose a threat to national security." 

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"CBP missed multiple opportunities to help the TSC verify the migrant was a positive Terrorist Watchlist match before releasing the migrant," the Inspector General's office wrote. "CBP’s ineffective practices resulted in sending an interview request to an incorrect email address, obtaining but not sharing information requested by the TSC, and releasing the migrant before CBP finished coordinating with the TSC. 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."

In a memo to the Inspector General's office, Homeland Security officials stated that the migrant was a threat to national security. Officials noted that the migrant was a member of FARC, otherwise known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. 

In 2021, the State Department revoked designating FARC as a terrorist organization. However, its members could still appear on terror watchlists. 

The Inspector General made the following three recommendations for authorities to follow:

- Develop and implement a process to maintain updated Border Patrol email distribution lists for (National Targeting Center) NTC information requests. 

- Identify and share best practices for resolving inconclusive Terrorist Watchlist matches before releasing migrants. 

- Develop and implement a process to ensure ICE officers have immediate access to GPS data relevant to their law enforcement operations. 

The 24-page report with redactions was published on the Homeland Security website. 

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