DHS Identifies Over 400 Immigrants Linked to ISIS-affiliated Smuggling Network

DHS Identifies Over 400 Immigrants Linked to ISIS-affiliated Smuggling Network

The Department of Homeland Security has designated over 400 immigrants from Central Asia and elsewhere as “subjects of concern” because they were brought to the United States via an ISIS-affiliated people smuggling network.

While over 150 of them have been caught, the whereabouts of over 50 are unknown, according to officials, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement plans to arrest them on immigration crimes if they are found.

“In this case, it was the information that suggested a potential tie to ISIS because of some of the individuals involved in [smuggling migrants to the border] that led us to want to take extra care,” a high-ranking Biden administration official stated, “and out of an abundance of caution make sure that we exercised our authority most expansively and appropriately to mitigate risk because of this potential connection being made.”

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The person went on to say that since ICE began arresting migrants transported to the United States by an ISIS-linked smuggling gang many months ago, no evidence has emerged linking them to a threat to the US nation.

According to the three officials, many of the more than 400 migrants who crossed the southern border were permitted into the United States by Customs and Border Protection because they were not on the government’s terrorism watchlist, and the agency did not have information that raised concerns at the time.

However, recent terrorist incidents in Russia have heightened concerns about ISIS and its spinoff, ISIS-K. In recent months, DHS has focused its attention on migrants from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, and Russia, where ISIS-K has been active.

“The fact that the whereabouts were unknown is alarming,” said Christopher O’Leary, former FBI counterterrorism division chief and current security consultant at The Soufan Group.

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O’Leary believes ICE is making these arrests to detain people who may constitute a threat to national security, even if there is no indication they are planning an attack.

“I believe the [U.S.] is scrambling to locate these individuals, and using the immigration charges is not uncommon,” O’Leary told reporters. “They are in breach of the law. And if you need to get someone off the street, this is a terrific way to accomplish it.”

Thousands of migrants from those nations are already in the United States, awaiting court rulings on whether they may stay.

Two officials said federal law enforcement agencies are “not panicking” about the persons who have been identified as “subjects of concern,” but are prioritizing their arrest on immigration charges out of prudence.

Officials reported that some of the 150 apprehended had previously been deported. The whereabouts of other people in 17 states are known, and they may be apprehended soon. Other migrants may have already departed the United States voluntarily. Some of those detained or deported to date have been charged with immigration offenses. Nobody has been charged with terrorism-related offenses.

Earlier this month, ICE arrested eight Tajik males in New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles on suspicion of belonging to the Islamic State.

NBC News was the first to report on the similar arrest of an Uzbek man in Baltimore, whose home nation notified the US to his affiliation with ISIS. He was seized in April after having lived in the United States for more than two years, according to two US authorities. There were no indications of his involvement with terrorism when he entered the United States.

Counterterrorism officials said the threat of terrorism from migrants entering the United States’ borders has always been low. According to CBP data, since October, the number of migrants crossing into the United States from Mexico and Canada matched with names on the terrorism watchlist has accounted for.014% of all CBP interactions, or significantly less than one out of every 7,000 migrants vetted.

Recently, however, several current and former US officials have warned that vetting at the US border must be strengthened for national security reasons. They express concern about a rise in immigration from nations such as Venezuela, China, and the Eastern Hemisphere, which do not frequently share law enforcement and criminal data with the United States.


According to NBC News, an Afghan named Mohammad Kharwin, 48, who was on the U.S. terrorism blacklist, was released by CBP because they did not have enough information when he crossed the border. He spent nearly a year in the United States before being apprehended in San Antonio in February. He was released on bond following a court appearance but was arrested again hours later after NBC News aired a piece about his case.

The DHS Office of Inspector General recently highlighted issues with vetting at the southern border, stating in a report that “the Department of Homeland Security’s technology, procedures, and coordination were not fully effective to screen and vet non-citizens applying for admission into the United States.”

NBCNEWS stated, that on Monday, the Republican-led House Homeland Security Committee requested an unredacted version of the Inspector General report to “evaluate DHS’s handling of this important national security matter.”

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