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400 illegal immigrants smuggled into US by ISIS-linked effort: Report

United States Border Patrol patrols an area where larger number of noncitizens are making multiple border crossing attempts, at Otay Mountain on June 8, 2021, in San Diego. (Alejandro Tamayo/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)
June 26, 2024

Over 400 illegal immigrants identified by the Department of Homeland Security have been transported to the United States by an ISIS-linked human smuggling effort, multiple officials reportedly told NBC News. More than 50 of the terrorist-connected illegal immigrants are missing.

Three U.S. officials told NBC News that over 150 illegal immigrants tied to the ISIS network have been arrested, but the whereabouts of at least 50 more are unknown, the New York Post reported.

“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, and out of an abundance of caution make sure that we exercised our authority in the most expansive and appropriate way to mitigate risk because of this potential connection being made,” a senior Biden administration official reportedly said.

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ICE began arresting illegal immigrants connected to the ISIS effort earlier this year, the official said. None of the illegal immigrants have been tied to threats targeting the United States.

The three officials allegedly noted that a number of the 400 ISIS-linked illegal immigrants were released into the U.S. by President Joe Biden’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) after they entered the United States illegally across the southern border.

“The fact that the whereabouts were unknown is clearly alarming,” former FBI counterterrorism section chief Christopher O’Leary told the outlet.

O’Leary said ICE is attempting to arrest the illegal immigrants linked to the ISIS human smuggling network even if they are not suspected of planning a terrorist attack.

“I believe the [U.S.] is scrambling to locate these individuals, and using the immigration charges is not uncommon,” O’Leary added. “They are in violation of that law. And if you need to take somebody off the street, that’s a good approach to do it.”