The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a warning to staff that Iranian-backed terrorists of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) may try to cross the U.S. southern border with Mexico in an attempt to enter the country illegally, according to leaked government documents.
In an intelligence notice by the agency’s San Diego Field Office’s Intelligence Division, CBP officials warn that individuals “inspired by, or reacting to, the current Israel-Hamas conflict may attempt travel to or from the area of hostilities in the Middle East via circuitous transit across the Southwest border.”
“Foreign fighters motivated by ideology or mercenary soldiers of fortune may attempt to obfuscate travel to or from the US to or from countries in the Middle East through Mexico,” the document added.
The notice also informs border personnel to be on the lookout for military-aged men in possession of military gear who are traveling alone at the border, don’t have determined return plans, or have any associations with Israel or Palestinian areas.
It also lists several questions of interest border agents should ask, such as whether they have any association with military, security, or government civilian agencies, or have any familial association with PIJ, the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, or other similar Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).
The memo was first reported by The Daily Caller and has since been shared by other media outlets. It specifically shows three insignia patches worn by PIJ, Hamas, and Hezbollah.
The CBP did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter, but a spokesperson for the agency told The Daily Caller that it has seen “no indication of Hamas-directed foreign fighters seeking to make entry into the United States.”
“It is the policy of CBP to neither confirm nor speak to potentially improperly disclosed information or internal documents marked as law enforcement sensitive or for official use only,” the spokesperson added. “In general, CBP provides frontline personnel a wide range of context for situational awareness in order to ensure they remain vigilant in fulfillment of our homeland and border security missions. Situational awareness briefs are not threat assessments.”
Rise in Illegal Aliens on FBI Terror Watchlist Encountered at US Border
The warning of potential terrorist encounters at the U.S.–Mexico border comes as the Biden administration is facing criticism after border officials recently announced a record number of illegal immigrants on the FBI’s terror watchlist were apprehended in the past 12 months.
According to CBP statistics, 18 people on the federal terrorist watchlist were encountered between ports of entry at the southern border in September, bringing to a total of 169 such encounters in fiscal year 2023 ending on Sept. 30.
The 169 figure is the highest annual number since Border Patrol was founded in 1924. The latest figure also exceeds the previous record of 98 in fiscal year 2022, and 15 in fiscal year 2021.
With illegal immigrants on the FBI terror watchlist apprehended between ports at the northern border included, the total for fiscal year 2023 was 172.
The latest CBP statistics also revealed 269,735 illegal aliens had been encountered at the U.S. southern border for the month of September—the highest single-month total ever recorded. The latest monthly figure brings the total number of encounters for fiscal year 2023 to 2.47 million.
Domestic Terrorism Threat
At a White House press briefing earlier this month, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the federal government is operating at “a heightened state of vigilance” concerning domestic terrorism after Hamas’s devastating attack against Israel on Oct.7, which has killed more than 1,400 Israelis, as well as at least 32 Americans.
FBI Director Christopher Wray, meanwhile, revealed on Oct. 15 that there has been an increase in reported domestic threats as a direct result of the unfolding crisis in the Middle East.
“We have seen an increase in reported threats, but vigilance is heightened right now just because of the fluid and volatile environment in the Middle East and the way in which that could spin out in the U.S.,” Mr. Wray told CBS News.
Although the FBI chief didn’t provide more details about the alleged threats in the homeland, Mr. Wray’s warning coincides with heightened terror threats elsewhere, including in the capital of Belgium, where the terror alert level was raised to the highest level since 2016 after two Swedish nationals were shot to death in Brussels on Oct. 17 by a 45-year-old man who identified himself as a member of the ISIS terrorist group.
Belgian police shot and killed the Tunisian national following an intensive manhunt hours after the attack.
Dan Stein, president of the anti-immigration organization, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), has warned that the threat of a terrorist attack against the American people was at a two-decade high.
“This month’s terrorist attacks against Israel, and threats of ‘global jihad’ issued by Hamas and their overlords in Tehran, mean that the open-borders policies of the Biden administration have placed the American public at greater risk than at any time since 9/11,” Mr. Stein said in a statement in response to the latest CBP data.
“It is more urgent than ever that Congress step in and retake its plenary control over immigration policy,” he added. “We must reverse the administration’s open-borders policies, end the humanitarian crisis it has created, secure our borders, and focus its attention on finding and removing people who have entered illegally.”
Frank Fang contributed to this report.