Border Patrol Says Encounters With Terrorists at Borders Are Uncommon, Despite Claims

Encounters with terrorists at U.S. borders are "very uncommon," according to a statement released Wednesday from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

"Our border security efforts are layered and include multiple levels of rigorous screening that allow us to detect and prevent people who post national security or public safety risks from entering the United States," CBP said in the statement provided to Newsweek.

The agency's statement comes following claims made by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on Fox News in which he said: "It's not just people from Mexico or Honduras or El Salvador. They're now finding people from Yemen, Iran, Turkey, people on the terrorist watch list they are catching."

Democrats immediately questioned McCarthy's claims, The Washington Post reported. Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) described McCarthy's words in a tweet as "weird." Given his role as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations, Gallego said it was odd that he hadn't heard anything of terrorists arriving at the border.

"Gonna ask for a briefing," Gallego said. "Pretty sure he is either wrong or lying."

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. Gonna ask for a briefing. Pretty sure he is either wrong or lying. https://t.co/retrzeUPxV

— Ruben Gallego (@RubenGallego) March 15, 2021

During a visit to El Paso, Texas on Monday, McCarthy said border agents he had met warned him of suspected terrorists attempting to cross into the U.S., the Post reported.

"We asked them what countries are people coming from," McCarthy told reporters. "Yemen, Iran, Sri Lanka, that's what's coming across. They even talked about Chinese, as well."

On Tuesday, according to Axios, CBP reported to Congress that four people arrested at the southwest border since October 1 matched names on the FBI's Terrorist Screening Database. One of the people was from Serbia and three of them were from Yemen.

CBP also announced on February 3 that it apprehended 11 Iranian citizens at the border near Yuma, Arizona. It also confirmed it has arrested 14 people from Iran in 2021 so far.

While its statement did not address these specific individuals, the agency did confirm that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) "works with" and "shares" information and intelligence with international partners to prevent listed terrorists from entering the U.S.

"CBP adjudicates individuals encountered at and between our ports of entry against several classified and unclassified databases to determine if they post a threat to national security, consistent with the law," CBP said.

The DHS has stopped more than 3,700 people on the FBI's watchlist from entering the U.S. during 2017, Axios reported.

CBP
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) confirmed in a statement that encounters with terrorists at the U.S.-Mexico border are "uncommon," despite claims otherwise. Asylum seekers walk past CBP officers while crossing into the United States from Mexico on March 16, 2021 in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico John Moore/Getty Images

McCarthy was one of several GOP members who suggested the U.S.-Mexico border was being exploited by terrorists due to President Joe Biden's immigration policies. The Biden administration has repealed former President Donald Trump's Migrant Protection Protocol and "zero tolerance policy," contributing to a surge of migrants arriving at CBP border stations. But the administration has yet to follow suit with Republicans and call the situation at the border a "crisis."

Despite the growing pressure on the Biden administration to address the overflow at the border, CBP upheld its ability to effectively locate and keep out terrorists.

"While encounters of known and suspected terrorists at our borders are very uncommon," CBP said, "they underscore the importance of the critical work our agents carry out on a daily basis to vet all individuals encountered at our borders."

Updated 10:33 AM ET, to include a statement from CBP.