Border Crisis

Special Interest Migrant Incursions Climbing at Southern Border

According to a Department of Homeland Security report reviewed by Breitbart Texas, nearly 25,000 migrants from Special Interest Countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa have been apprehended entering the United States during the first six months of fiscal year 2024, which began in October. According to a source within CBP, most of the migrants, including single adult males from countries subject to travel warnings by the U.S. State Department due to terrorism, were released into the United States to pursue asylum claims.

The source, not authorized to speak to the media, told Breitbart Texas the number of Special Interest Migrants shows no signs of slowing and has increased by more than six percent when compared to the total number encountered during the first six months of fiscal year 2023. As reported by Breitbart Texas, more than 61,000 Special Interest Migrants were apprehended in all of 2023.

Turkish nationals were the largest Special Interest Migrant demographic with nearly 7,000 apprehended since October. According to the report reviewed by Breitbart Texas, one alarming increase from fiscal year 2023 involves migrants from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. More than 4,300 citizens of that country have been apprehended since October. The number of Mauritanians breaching the southwest border has increased more than 65 percent from the same time frame last year.

According to the CIA world factbook, the Northwestern African country is still working to address a continuing practice of slavery and its vestiges. Although officially abolished in 1981, slavery was not criminalized in Mauritania until 2007. As of 2022, the practice of slavery still exists among most ethnic groups inside the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, according to a United Nations report.

In July 2023, the State Department’s travel warning to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania lists crime and terrorism as the main concern to discourage travel to the country by United States citizens.

The report reviewed by Breitbart Texas also reflected a significant increase in migrants from several Middle Eastern countries identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigations as Special Interest Countries. Countries in this region include Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Syria, Iran, and Lebanon. The apprehension of Jordanian and Moroccan citizens increased by more than 1,000 percent when compared to the same time frame in fiscal year 2022. Egyptian national encounters at the southern border increased by more than 400 percent.

According to a 2019 DHS fact sheet, the term “Special Interest Alien” is defined as follows:

Generally, an SIA is a non-U.S. person who, based on an analysis of travel patterns, potentially poses a national security risk to the United States or its interests.  Often such individuals or groups are employing travel patterns known or evaluated to possibly have a nexus to terrorism.  DHS analysis includes an examination of travel patterns, points of origin, and/or travel segments that are tied to current assessments of national and international threat environments.

This does not mean that all SIAs are “terrorists,” but rather that the travel and behavior of such individuals indicates a possible nexus to nefarious activity (including terrorism) and, at a minimum, provides indicators that necessitate heightened screening and further investigation.  The term SIA does not indicate any specific derogatory information about the individual – and DHS has never indicated that the SIA designation means more than that.

Even though migrants from Special Interest Countries may not be involved in terrorism, the source says the danger that just a handful of migrants with bad intentions pose should alarm everyone. “When you are apprehending thousands each day, it is a struggle to conduct thorough interviews and investigations on each and every one, even those from Special Interest Countries,” the source says.

Earlier in March, a Lebanese migrant apprehended near El Paso, Texas, reportedly claimed to be a Hezbollah terrorist. The Lebanese national, considered a Special Interest Migrant, claimed to be headed to New York and told arresting Border Patrol agents he wanted to make a bomb.

The 22-year-old Lebanese migrant, Basel Bassel Ebbadi, was more forthcoming than others according to the source. “That’s an anomaly that just doesn’t happen frequently, his statement was more out of anger and frustration perhaps than really letting us know what his plan was,” the source added. Basel Bassel Ebbadi is just one of 50 other Lebanese nationals encountered by the Border Patrol since October according to the source.

Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol.  Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.

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