Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has deleted a press release detailing the arrest of two Yemeni illegal immigrants who were identified on a terror watch list — leading to Republicans accusing the Biden administration of a lack of transparency.
CBP announced on Monday that two Yemeni men had been apprehended and had been identified on a terror watch list in El Centro Sector in California in the last two months. The first arrest, in January, involved a 33-year-old illegal Yemeni who was on both the FBI’s Terrorism Watch List and a No-Fly List.
The second occurred last week in the same sector. The 26-year-old was also on both lists. The first was handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) while the second was being held in federal custody.
“Part of the Border Patrol’s mission states we will protect the country from terrorists,” said Chief Patrol Agent Gregory K. Bovino in the now-deleted press release. “Today, like every other day, our agents did that. These apprehensions at our border illustrates the importance of our mission and how we can never stop being vigilant in our everyday mission to protect this great country.”
Fox News reported last month that at least four foreign nationals — including the Yemeni man arrested in January — whose names match those on the terror watch list, had been picked up by Border Patrol trying to enter the country illegally since October.
A CBP spokesperson told Fox in a statement at that time that security efforts at the border “are layered and include multiple levels of rigorous screening that allow us to detect and prevent people who pose national security or public safety risks from entering the United States.”
“DHS works with our international partners to share intelligence and other information, including to prevent individuals on the terrorist watchlist from entering the United States. CBP adjudicates individuals encountered at and between our ports of entry against several classified and unclassified databases to determine if they pose a threat to national security, consistent with the law,” the spokesperson said. “While encounters of known and suspected terrorists at our borders are very uncommon, they underscore the importance of the critical work our agents carry out on a daily basis to vet all individuals encountered at our borders.”
CBP and DHS did not immediately respond to requests from Fox News about the deletion of the press release, as well as an accompanying tweet.
The White House on Tuesday said that apprehensions were “uncommon” and a sign that officials were doing their jobs.
“They do underscore the importance of the critical work that is done on a daily basis to vet those at the border. DHS works, not just at the border as you know, but also with international partners to share intelligence and other information including to prevent individuals on certain watchlist from entering the United States,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “They adjudicate individuals encountered at and between ports of entry against several classified and unclassified databases. So while this is rare, this is a reflection of them doing their jobs.”
But Republicans, who had pointed to the arrests as evidence that President Biden’s border strategy was “dangerous,” noted the deletion and linked it to accusations of a lack of transparency about what is going on at the border.
“.@DHSgov & @CBP Why did you take down your previously public tweet & press release announcing that two people on the terror watch list were apprehended exploiting President Biden’s open border policies?” Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee tweeted. “Transparency in name alone is not transparency.”
The information scrub comes amid continued concerns about the crisis at the southern border, which Republicans have blamed on the rollback of Trump-era border policies like the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) by President Biden’s administration.
The administration has downplayed the surge, calling it a “challenge” and blaming the Trump administration’s breakdown of legal routes of asylum.
But multiple outlets, including Fox News, reported last week initial CBP numbers indicate that the agency is on track to have encountered more than 171,000 migrants in March — a 15 year high. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that as many as 1,000 migrants are getting past overwhelmed Border Patrol agents every day.