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Republicans: Why are illegal borders crossers with terrorist ties being released?

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(The Center Square) – A group of 21 Republican U.S. senators, led by Sen. Ted Budd, R-NC, are demanding answers from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about federal agents releasing illegal border crossers into the U.S. who weren’t properly vetted and were later discovered to have alleged terrorist connections.

They sent a letter to Mayorkas and FBI Director Christopher Wray after the U.S. House Intelligence Committee chairman and a retired CIA director raised warnings about potential terrorist attacks happening on U.S. soil before the end of the year, The Center Square reported.

“President Biden is derelict in his duty to protect and defend our country,” Budd said. “These incidents highlight the extreme national security risks posed by the open southern border. We need to expose what happened here, and make sure it never happens again. We need to secure the border and stop the chaos.”

The senators express alarm after eight Tajikistan nationals with alleged terrorist ties to ISIS illegally entered the U.S. and were released by Border Patrol agents or used the CBP One app through the president’s and Mayorkas’ “lawful pathways” program to enter the U.S. instead of being vetted, arrested on the spot and prevented entry.

“We are deeply concerned by reports that a wiretap shows that one of the now-arrested individuals was talking about bombs and that the target of the wiretap was previously released by federal authorities at the southern border with a court date of next year,” they said. They are referring to Border Patrol agents releasing inadmissible illegal foreign nationals into the country by giving them “notice to appear” documents to appear before an immigration judge several years into the future, The Center Square has reported.

Because the alleged terrorists weren’t properly vetted, as is a consistent problem identified by the Office of Inspector General, it was only after they were released that the FBI expressed alarm and they were found and arrested, CBS News reported. The OIG has also found that CBP agents were releasing known and suspected terrorists into the country because of “ineffective practices and processes.”

Their arrests were made after Wray in April testified before Congress that Islamic terrorist and other national security threats were coming through the border. He referred to an “increasingly concerning … potential for a coordinated attack here in the homeland, akin to the ISIS-K attack we saw at the Russia concert hall,” referring to ISIS-Khorasan, ISIS’s Afghan affiliate. In March, he also testified that ISIS-connected smuggling organizations were coming through the border and the FBI was investigating.

The senators point to “multiple recent releases of aliens on the terrorist watchlist into the United States,” including from Afghanistan, Jordan, Somalia, Uzbekistan and others.

They cite an example of an Afghan national and suspected member of the terrorist group Hezb-e-Islami (HIG) who illegally entered the U.S. in California and was arrested on March 10, 2023. Instead of being processed for removal, he was enrolled in an Alternatives to Detention monitoring program for two weeks and then “allowed to roam free in the U.S. for ten months, unmonitored, until ICE agents arrested him again due to potential terrorist ties,” the senators said.

Another example is of a Somali national on the FBI Terrorist Watchlist as “a confirmed member” of the terrorist organization Al-Shabaab, who illegally entered the U.S. in California in March 2023. Instead of being processed for removal, he was released into the country. Nearly one year later, he was arrested in Minnesota for his alleged involvement in the use, manufacture or transportation of explosives or firearms, they said.

Another is an Uzbekistan national with alleged ties to ISIS who illegally entered the U.S. in Arizona in February 2022. He was arrested by Border Patrol agents and instead of being processed for removal, he also was released into the U.S. In May 2023, the Uzbekistan government issued an international notice that he was wanted for his ties to ISIS, “which U.S. officials failed to discover until March of this year,” the senators note.

They also point to two Jordanians “posing as Amazon subcontractors attempted to breach Marine Corps Base Quantico” last month as examples of DHS failures. One had overstayed his student visa by roughly 18 months; the other illegally entered the U.S. in California in April. Instead of being detained and processed for removal, he was released on his own recognizance to appear before an immigration judge. One of the men was on the Terrorist Watch List.

These are in addition to the greatest number of known or suspected terrorists (KSTs) illegally entering the U.S. in the last nearly three fiscal years, according to CBP data. In fiscal 2024 through June 20, 316 KSTs have been apprehended, with the majority, 199, at the northern border, according to CBP data.

The greatest number of KSTs to ever be apprehended in U.S. history was in fiscal 2023 of 736; with the majority, 487, apprehended at the northern border, including an Iranian with terrorist ties, The Center Square first reported.

The senators asked DHS to respond to questions about the names and identities of arrested KSTs, where they illegally entered the U.S., if they claimed asylum, what the vetting process was, if they were connected to ISIS or other terrorist organizations, among other questions.

DHS was given a deadline of Tuesday to provide the requested information.

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