Recent correspondence from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) referenced the potential for Islamist groups to enter the country amid the ongoing war in the Middle East. The concern over the southern border comes as the CBP separately announced the highest level of attempted crossings in recorded history.
The CBP’s San Diego Field Office wrote of concerns regarding people “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 office wrote.
In particular, the agency cited concerns that members of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Hezbollah or those inspired by them could attempt to cross the southern border.
The news came as the CBP announced Saturday that during fiscal year 2023, 169 people on the United States terror watch list attempted to cross into the country from the southern border. This was the highest level yet recorded and was higher than the last six fiscal years combined.
Including official entry points, CBP encountered 564 individuals on the terror watch list, which is another record.
Furthermore, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) separately wrote of increased concern that “terrorists and criminal actors may exploit the elevated flow and increasingly complex security environment to enter the United States.”
“Individuals with terrorism connections are interested in using established travel routes and permissive environments to facilitate access to the United States,” DHS wrote.
The agency also said that since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel, it was sharing its intelligence with other agencies and law enforcement.
Last weekend, the CBP announced that almost 2.5 million individuals were encountered by law enforcement attempting to enter the country. This represents the highest point yet recorded.
This includes almost 270,000 migrant encounters in September.