Federal immigration authorities arrested an illegal immigrant wanted in Senegal for alleged terrorist activities, two weeks after he was released into the country after being encountered by agents at the southern border.
In a press release, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says a 29-year-old “unlawfully present Mauritanian or Senegalese citizen” was arrested on Oct. 17.
ICE says he is wanted by Senegalese authorities for criminal conspiracy in relation to a terrorist organization; destruction, degradation and damages in relation to a terrorist organization; direct provocation of an armed crowd and acts (or preparatory acts) aimed at compromising public safety.
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But he had first been encountered on Oct. 3 — two weeks earlier — by Border Patrol agents at the southern border near Lukeville, Arizona. He was then processed by officials and served with a Notice to Appear in New York City and released on his own recognizance.
A week after he was released, on Oct. 10, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations agents notified Enforcement and Removal Operations in New York City that he was wanted on terrorism charges in Senegal.
ICE’s New York City Fugitive Operations team then arrested him “without incident” outside of the Federal Plaza immigration court in New York City. He is now in custody on deportation proceedings.
“Noncitizens who are engaged in or suspected of supporting terrorism are a direct threat to our country’s national security and will be expeditiously removed from the United States,” ERO New York City Field Office Director Kenneth Genalo said in a statement. “ERO New York City will use every tool at our disposal to keep American citizens and residents safe from those who erroneously believe they can exploit our immigration laws to escape justice in other countries.”
But the release of a foreign national who is wanted on terror charges in another country is likely to fuel ongoing concerns about terrorists or terror suspects getting into the U.S. at the besieged southern border — particularly in the wake of the Hamas terror attack against Israel. Border Patrol agents have expressed concerns to Fox News before that, unless someone has committed a crime in the U.S., agents may not know a migrant’s criminal history as many countries do not share their databases with the U.S.
Republicans have separately raised concerns about the number of terror watch list encounters at the southern border, which hit a record in FY23, as well as the number of “special interest aliens” being encountered — in addition to the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who evaded agents as “gotaways.”
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Recently, a CBP memo warned agents about the possibility that foreign fighters associated with terror groups like Hamas may try and enter the U.S. — although CBP has stressed that it has seen no indications of fighters trying to do so.
The Department of Homeland Security’s fiscal 2024 threat assessment warned that agents have encountered a growing number on the watch list and warned that “terrorists and criminal actors may exploit the elevated flow and increasingly complex security environment to enter the United States.”
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DHS has stressed that it has “multilayered border security efforts” including screening and vetting, and has also said that encounters of known or suspected terrorists are uncommon.
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“Our border security efforts include biometric and biographic screening and vetting,” a DHS official said this week. “CBP screens and vets every individual encountered, and if an individual is determined to pose a potential threat to national security or public safety, in coordination with the Joint Terrorism Taskforce (JTTF), we either deny admission, detain, remove, or refer them to other federal agencies for further vetting and prosecution as appropriate.”