The outgoing US Border Patrol chief has warned of a “national security crisis”, saying suspected terrorists are crossing into the country at "level we have never seen before."
“I firmly believe that it is a national security crisis. Immigration is just a subcomponent of it, and right now, it’s just a cover for massive amounts of smuggling going across the southwest border – to include TSDBs at a level we have never seen before. That is a real threat,” Rodney Scott said in a message to his agents, obtained by the Washington Examiner.
TSDB refers to known or suspected terrorists as identified in the FBI's Terrorist Screening Database.
“Over and over again, I see other people talk about our mission, your mission, and the context of it being immigration or the current crisis today being an immigration crisis,” Scott added.
Record numbers of migrants, mostly Central American countries, have crossed the southwestern US border since President Joe Biden took office in January, creating an immigration crisis.
Fewer US agents are now able to patrol for national security threats as the surge of migrants has prompted US Border Patrol to pull more agents from the field to help deal with the people in custody.
At least four suspects who were on the FBI’s terrorism watchlist were arrested by US Border Patrol agents as they tried to sneak into the US over the past year.
A US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) news release about these specific encounters was taken down from the government agency's website hours after going up, prompting complaints from Republicans about the Department of Homeland Security's transparency, media reports said.
A CBP spokesperson said, "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 official added.
The four terror watchlist matches represented a greater number than the average total seen in recent years.
House Homeland Security Committee ranking member John Katko has said the international cartels were "masterfully" exploiting the border due to an easing of Trump-era border restrictions.
"People they've caught in the last few days [in Border Patrol's El Paso sector] have been under the terror watchlist," Katko said. "Individuals that they have on the watchlist for terrorism are now starting to exploit the southern border."
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told Border Patrol agents in Texas last week that “unsustainable” numbers of migrants are flooding into the US. “Our people in the field can’t continue, and our system isn’t built for it,” Mayorkas said, according to leaked audio obtained by Fox News.
President Biden vowed to unwind many of the immigration policies of former president Donald Trump when he assumed office on Jan. 20, saying he would erase what he has called "a moral and national shame" inherited from Trump.
The rolling back of Trump’s immigration policies stoked illegal immigration, with large numbers of unaccompanied children massing on the US border from Mexico.
Biden is also under fire now over the growing humanitarian crisis at the US-Mexico border, where an influx of refugees fleeing violence and economic hardship in Central and South America.
Trump earlier this year accused President Biden of creating a “humanitarian and national security disaster” at the border with his “reckless” policies.