(Daily Caller News Foundation) — Federal authorities caught a terrorist at the U.S. southern border and released him into the country, where he roamed freely for nearly a year before being arrested in Minnesota just days ago, according to an internal federal memo exclusively obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The unnamed individual, who the memo only identifies as a member of the Somali terror group al-Shabaab, was released shortly after being caught illegally crossing the southern border near San Ysidro, Calif., on March 13, 2023, according to the memo, which the DCNF is not publishing in order to protect the identity of a confidential source. The Terrorist Screening Center “deemed him a ‘mismatch’” after running his name through the terror watchlist, according to the memo, which was sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.
However, on Jan. 18, 2024, the Terrorist Screening Center “made a redetermination” that the individual was “a confirmed member of al-Shabaab” and was involved in the use, manufacture or transport of explosives or firearms, the memo states. Two days later, ICE nabbed the al-Shabaab member in Minneapolis, Minn.
Border Patrol caught 172 terror watchlist suspects attempting to enter the U.S. illegally during fiscal year 2023. Former homeland security officials say the constant deluge of illegal immigrants hitting the southern border is making it easier for bad actors to slip into the country.
“Many within the Biden administration, including Secretary Mayorkas, have repeatedly assured us that the vetting process at the border is comprehensive and complete,” John Fabbricatore, a retired ICE field director who now sits on the National Immigration Center for Enforcement’s (NICE) board, told the DCNF. “However, we continue to witness alarming instances where terrorists are able to freely roam the United States for months after being released at the border before their criminal and terrorist histories come to light.”
The number of suspected terrorists caught trying to illegally cross the southern border continues to grow. Border Patrol agents apprehended 50 illegal immigrants on the terror watchlist between October and December of last year, according to federal data. For comparison, there were a total of 30 such encounters between fiscal years 2017 and 2020.
“This situation is greatly endangering our nation, and it is clear that our safety is dependent on enforcing our immigration laws and securing the border,” said Fabbricatore, who’s also running for Congress.
Mass releases of illegal migrants under the Biden administration have placed immense pressure on federal authorities to move people through the system quickly.
“People have been released prior to completed records checks being returned on a subject. Which would not allow proper processing and placement of a potential terrorist once those results were known,” an ICE official, who previously served as a Border Patrol agent, told the DCNF on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.
Border Patrol can only hold migrants in custody for up to 72 hours, but it often takes much longer to receive information from background checks, Fabbricatore said.
“The overburdening of the Border Patrol with the excessive amounts of illegal border crossers has forced faster processing times, which doesn’t allow for a more vigorous initial investigation into a migrant’s background. The background checks currently being run only initially search out criminal history in the United States, not outside its borders. It could take days, weeks, or months to connect derogatory information coming from other databases,” Fabbricatore said.
There were 860,000 individuals who are known to have snuck into the country illegally without apprehension in 2023.
The U.S. government has considered al-Shabaab a foreign terrorist organization since 2008. The terrorist group operates in Somalia and has also committed attacks in Kenya and Uganda, according to the National Counterterrorism Center.
U.S. forces killed three al-Shabaab terrorists in a self defense air strike on Jan. 21 at the request of the Somali government
Al-Shabaab has carried out bombings, including suicide attacks, and the group has assassinated Somali peace activists, international aid workers, journalists and numerous civil society figures, according to the National Counterterrorism Center. The terror group carried out a 2013 attack on Westgate mall in Nairobi, killing 67 people, and in 2017 killed hundreds of civilians in Mogadishu through two suicide attacks.
After Hamas’ attack on Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, federal authorities warned Border Patrol to be on alert for Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah terrorists attempting to illegally cross the southern border, according to an internal memo exclusively obtained by the DCNF at the time.
“It is clear that our safety is dependent on enforcing our immigration laws and securing the border,” Fabbricatore said.
ICE didn’t respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.