- The Customs and Border Protection agency confirmed the arrests to Congress on Tuesday, a congressional aide told Axios
- The names of the people apprehended were not released
- The source said three were from Yemen and the fourth was from Serbia
- The news came a day after House Republicans claimed that an unspecified number of migrants crossing the border had names on the terror watch list
The Customs and Border Protection agency confirmed the arrests to Congress on Tuesday, a congressional aide told Axios.
The names of the people apprehended were not released, but the source said three were from Yemen and the fourth was from Serbia.
The source also said that the four arrests are more than the number of similar suspects taken into custody during recent fiscal years.
The news came a day after Republican House members visited the border in Texas and claimed that an unspecified number of migrants crossing the border had names matching those on the terror watch list.
‘People who they’ve got in the last few days… have been on the terror watchlist,’ Rep John Katko of New York said at a press conference in El Paso, alongside House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and 12 GOP colleagues.
‘Individuals that they have on the watch list for terrorism are now starting to exploit the Southern border. We need to wake up, we need to understand.
‘Listen Mr President Biden, you’re an okay guy. Why don’t you just admit you made a mistake with this policy and go back to the way it was and keep America safe for all of us?’
McCarthy echoed Katko’s assertion, saying of border agents: ‘You saw it in their eyes. They talked about: “They’re on the list.” The terrorist watch list.’
Several Democrats pushed back against the claims and demanded evidence.
‘Weird as the Chairman of the subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations and a border state member of Congress haven’t heard anything about this,’ Rep Ruben Gallego, a Democrat from Arizona, wrote on Twitter.
‘Gonna ask for a briefing. Pretty sure he is either wrong or lying,’ Gallego added.
Rep Veronica Escobar, a Democrat representing the El Paso area, also cast doubt on McCarthy and Katko’s claims, accusing them of trying to ‘fuel divisions’ in the country and stoke fear of immigrants.
The FBI’s terror watch list was created after 9/11 and includes people who are ‘known to be or reasonably suspected of being involved in terrorist activities’ based on intelligence from an array of US law enforcement agencies.
The list is believed to be quite long, although the FBI does not release a specific number of names at any given time.
Later on Monday, Katko expanded on his claims and suggested ‘people from Yemen and the Middle East are coming across the border now’.
Similar claims have been made before by former President Donald Trump, who in 2018 said people from the Middle East were traveling with a caravan of migrants making its way to the US’.
That assertion was found to be widely inaccurate with less than 0.1% of migrants intercepted in Mexico from the Middle East, according to QZ.com.
Katko said that terrorists were exploiting the ‘disorder at the border by executive order’ and even joining Mexican drug cartels.
‘The cartels know when to exploit the Southern border and they’re doing it now masterfully,’ Katko said. ‘They’re doing it because President Biden rolled back a lot of the orders of the previous administration that were working.’
‘There is indeed disorder at the border by executive order. No question about it.’
Before Katko was elected to Congress, he was a former assistant US attorney who prosecuted Mexican drug cartels in the El Paso.
Monday’s news conference came as the US has seen an alarming surge in border crossings over the seven weeks since Biden took office.
So many migrants are arriving that the government converted the Dallas Convention Center – normally a venue for concerts and sports events – into a processing facility to house up to 3,000 migrant teen boys as it scrambles to address increasing overcrowding at other facilities.
There has also been a surge of unaccompanied minors arriving at the border.
Democrats are upset that some Trump-era detention facilities are to be reopened to temporarily detain the migrant children.
Under Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy those coming across the border were sent straight back to Mexico, where they would wait for their asylum cases to be decided.
But their prospects are much brighter after the Biden administration scrapped the policy within days of taking office.
Under Biden’s revisions, single men and women will still be sent back but families with young children will be taken to a Border Patrol facility, processed and released with a notice to appear before an immigration court at a later date.
Democrats have claimed they inherited a ‘broken system’ while Republicans say the Biden administration sparked chaos at the southern border by ripping up Trump’s hardline policies.
According to Customs and Border Protection, the number of migrant apprehensions reached 78,323 in the month of January 2021 alone – double the amount from January 2020.