Thu. May 23rd, 2024

Man on terror watchlist remains in U.S. after being released by Border Patrol

By 37ci3 Apr12,2024

SAN ANTONIO – An Afghan migrant on a terror watch list remained in the United States for nearly a year after he was apprehended and released by Border Patrol agents in 2023, U.S. officials told NBC News. The Afghan national was arrested last month and later released by an immigration judge, saying he was not a national security threat.

Muhammad Harvin, 48, is currently out on bond as he awaits an immigration hearing scheduled for 2025 in Texas. There are no restrictions on his movement within the United States, US officials said.

Harvey was first apprehended on March 10, 2023, after illegally crossing the Mexico-US border near San Ysidro, California.

Border agents suspected he was on a US terrorist watch list at the time of his capture because one piece of information matched a person on the list. But the agents had no corroborating information, which officials declined to describe, that confirmed Harvey was the suspect, according to U.S. officials.

U.S. officials said that after processing Kharvi and taking his biometrics, Customs and Border Protection released him like other migrants without alerting Immigration and Customs Enforcement about possible terrorist ties.

Kharvin was referred to ICE’s Alternatives to Detention Program, which requires him to periodically check in by phone with an ICE officer. Kharvin was able to apply for asylum and work permits and fly domestically in the United States, officials said.

Kharvin is on the FBI’s national terror watch list, which includes the names of 1.8 million people considered potential security risks. The database shows him to be a member of Hizb-e-Islami, or HIG, a political and paramilitary organization designated by the United States as a terrorist organization.

according to National Intelligence ServiceHIG is a “purely anti-Western insurgent group” seeking to topple the Western-backed Afghan government before it falls in 2021.

HIG was responsible for attacks in Afghanistan between 2013 and 2015 that killed at least nine American soldiers and civilians. The group is not considered a major threat in terms of attacks within the United States.

The Biden administration has made it a priority to detain and deport migrants deemed a threat to national security. After this article was published, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said CBP did not “knowingly” release an individual on a terrorist watch list.

“The information in the record at the time of the initial encounter could not provide a definitive match,” the spokesperson said. “As soon as information became available that this individual was of concern, he was taken into custody by ICE. . . Law enforcement agencies are closely monitoring the matter to protect against public safety risks.”

In February 2024, the FBI provided information to ICE indicating that Kharvi had potential terrorist ties and could pose a threat to national security. A short time later, and nearly a year after he was released near the border, ICE agents swooped in and arrested Harvey on Feb. 28 in San Antonio, Texas, according to sources familiar with the case.

Kharvin was held in ICE custody pending a March 28 hearing before an immigration judge in Pearsall, Texas. Immigration judges decide whether migrants can remain in the United States legally, continue to be detained, or be deported.

Two U.S. officials said that ICE prosecutors did not share with the judge some classified information that showed Kharvi’s ties to HIG when they appeared in court. Prosecutors have argued that the man should be held without bail because he is a flight risk, but they have not said he is a national security risk, according to sources familiar with the case.

A judge ordered Harvey released on bail. The Justice Department, which oversees immigration judges and courts, declined to name the judge or respond to an official request for comment.

On March 30, ICE released Kharvin after he posted a $12,000 bond set by an immigration judge, which is higher than most bonds for migrants awaiting immigration court dates.

The judge did not impose any restrictions on his movement within the United States, but required him to appear for another hearing in a year. ICE has not appealed the judge’s decision, sources with knowledge of the case said. The case illustrates the difficulty US officials face in identifying migrants who may pose a threat to national security. Harvey’s case is the third incident in two years in which Customs and Border Protection has released migrants suspected of terrorism.

Earlier this year, a migrant with ties to the al-Shabaab terrorist group in Somalia was arrested in Minnesota after living in the United States for nearly a year. The Daily Caller reported on this.

In that case, the FBI’s Terrorist Review Center made a “redetermination” that he would be placed on a watch list after his release, the Daily Caller reported.

A June 2023 DHS Inspector General Report It reviewed a case in April 2022 in which a migrant was released because information linking him to a watch list was not properly collected. The report did not disclose the migrant’s nationality, but revealed that CBP sent a request for more information to the wrong email address.

However, in both cases, migrants suspected of connection with terrorism were taken into custody.

Jason Houser, former ICE chief of staff under the Biden administration and CBP’s top counterterrorism adviser under the Obama administration, said it’s rare for terrorists to cross the border and even more unusual for CBP to release someone who turns out to be. danger.

“We need to make sure we have processes in place to manage them, make sure they’re stored and know exactly where they are,” Houser said.

Houser said DHS is now better equipped to detect terrorists, and the number of people trying to enter the U.S. is still too low despite record crossings at the border.

“Any terrorist or person associated with terrorism who tries to come into this country is unacceptable,” Houser said. “But we have built within the U.S. government the federal law enforcement agencies, the intelligence community, the ability to identify these individuals.”

Former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief of staff Jason Houser said it's rare for people with ties to terrorism to cross the U.S. border, but more resources are needed.
Former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief of staff Jason Houser said it’s rare for people with ties to terrorism to cross the U.S. border, but more resources are needed. NBC News

Donald Trump has been in the election campaign many times became a terrorist threat on the border as the reason for his re-election as president.

“Terrorists are flowing unchecked from all over the world,” Trump wrote on Truth Social earlier this year.

An NBC News analysis found that the percentage of migrants on the terror watch list as part of CBP’s overall encounter along U.S. borders was slightly lower under the Biden administration than under the Trump administration. During the Biden administration, the average remained at 0.02%, down from Trump’s 0.05%.

In fiscal year 2023, which ended in late September and included an increase in border crossings, CBP had 736 encounters with migrants on the terror watch list at US borders, the highest number in six years. The second highest year was 2019, during the Trump administration, when CBP had 541 encounters with migrants on the watch list.

It is not known whether any migrants on the watch list have been allowed into the United States under the Trump administration.

The screening systems used to screen migrants at the border under the Biden administration are nearly identical to those used under Trump. When a migrant crosses the border between legal ports of entry, a Border Patrol agent collects the migrant’s name, date of birth, nationality, biometric information (such as fingerprints), and photographs. An agent then checks a series of national security databases to see if he has a criminal record or is on the country’s terror watch list.

Democrats on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said in a letter to DHS late last year that the terrorism watch list was too broad. They said there are many people on the list who pose little or no threat to the United States may violate the rights of travelers and has proven ineffective in deterring those seeking to harm US soil.

With a bipartisan immigration reform package blocked in Congress by pro-Trump Republicans, additional border security funding is unlikely to solve the problems shown by recent events.

Meanwhile, there are fears that tens of thousands of migrants are evading agents as they cross the southern border.

“This is a threat to national security,” Border Patrol chief Jason Owens said. He recently told CBS News. “They’re taking advantage of the weakness we have on our border right now.”

This story has been updated since publication to include the DHS statement and to clarify the procedures CBP followed in Kharvi’s release.

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By 37ci3

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