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Biden Gov’t Softened Vetting Process for Chinese Illegal Immigrants, According to Email

Migrants from China wait to be processed by U.S. Border Patrol agents near Jacumba Hot Springs. (Denis Poroy / For The San Diego Union-Tribune)
Migrants from China wait to be processed by U.S. Border Patrol agents near Jacumba Hot Springs. (Denis Poroy / For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

On Tuesday, an internal United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) email obtained by The Daily Caller revealed that the Biden administration simplified the vetting process for Chinese illegal immigrants.

The April 2023 email sent by a CBP supervisor to a "master list" of 500 Border Patrol agents calls on officials to decrease the number of interview questions for Chinese migrants arrested after illegally crossing into the country from 40 to five. The new directive came as agents were overwhelmed with record numbers of illegal crossings following the 2020 election.

"The expedited release into the US of Chinese nationals who are apprehended entering the country illegally, is another example of the Biden administration's willingness to sacrifice national security interests in the pursuit of their open borders policies," said Ira Mehlman, media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

Speaking to The Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF), J.J. Carrell, a retired CBP deputy patrol agent in charge, said that the scaling back of the interview process fast-tracked the release of Chinese illegal immigrants into the US while making it more difficult for CBP agents to identify national security threats.

"This policy change has accelerated the time it takes to process Chinese illegal immigrants — this does not make America safer," Carrell told the DCNF. "The final result is that dangerous Chinese illegal immigrants will still be released into the US."

"This is just the government covering their ass, so they can say they vetted," Carrell explained told the DCNF.

"I believe the government recognizes the threat of Chinese soldiers and spies that are pouring into America, and they want to try and identify these individuals. However, the same government does not want to stop the flow of illegal aliens or Chinese nationals — just the 'bad ones,' which is impossible."

Mehlman noted that Chinese espionage against the US "has become increasingly belligerent – stepping up their efforts to steal vital military and industrial secrets, as they seek to establish themselves as the world's dominant superpower."

"Nevertheless, rather than secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws, DHS, under the leadership of Secretary Mayorkas, is deliberately weakening the vetting process and making it easier for China and other adversaries and enemies to infiltrate our country regardless of the myriad threats these policies pose to the security of the nation," Mehlman explained to The Foreign Desk.

While agents once spent hours vetting a single Chinese illegal immigrant, the new guidance reduces the number of questions that agents are required to ask, speeding up the movement of Chinese illegal immigrants into the US.

Carrell, who provided the email to the DCNF, said human smuggling operations quickly changed to such guidelines, coaching Chinese illegal immigrants on how to answer CBP's shorter list of questions.

Carrell described smuggling operations as "highly coordinated," telling the DCNF that illegal immigrants are "coached from the beginning of the journey." The April 2023 CBP email also revealed that Chinese illegal immigrants who pass field the five "basic questions" may be released into the homeland.

"If they do not alert to the above, there is no requirement to further delay the current processing pathway — NTA/OR," the email stated. "NTA/OR" is short for "Notice to Appear" / "Order of Recognizance," allowing for Chinese illegal immigrants entry into the US with a future court date. In 2022, Border Patrol encountered approximately 35,000 Chinese immigrants at the border, according to CBP data. Between 2022 and 2023, Border Patrol confrontations with Chinese illegal immigrants increased over 1,000%, according to government records.

After answering the questions, Chinese illegal immigrants are "sent out wherever they go, whether that is contracted through Catholic Charities or other nonprofits," Carrell said to the DCNF.

The new guidance calls on agents to ask five questions concerning military service, universities, place of birth/region, employment and political party. The questions seek to determine whether a Chinese illegal immigrant poses a national security threat and has any potential ties to the Chinese government, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), or the Chinese military, the former official explained to the DCNF.

"If there is a “Yes” to any of the above, they are then referred and transported to [redacted] for an in-depth interview by Tactical Terrorism Response Team," according to the email.

The Tactical Terrorism Response Team (TTRT) is part of the sector intelligence unit responsible for conducting in-depth questioning of Chinese illegal immigrants with potential terror or Chinese government ties, Carrell said.

According to the former border official, TTRT is a vetting unit that looks to see if an individual poses a national security risk.

"If TTRT determines that the individual is a security risk, that individual is turned over to Joint Terrorism Task Force for further investigation and deportation," Carrell said.

The DHS Special Interest Alien (SIA) list does not include immigrants from China. The DHS identifies SIA as a "non-US person who, based on an analysis of travel patterns, potentially poses a national security risk to the US or its interests."

The department’s analysis includes "travel patterns, points of origin, and travel segments tied to current assessments of national and international threat environments."

The vetting system for Chinese illegal immigrants before the April 2023 email was overwhelmed by the recent surge in crossings at the southern border, Carrell explained. Under the previous system, it took four hours to process Chinese illegal immigrants. Carrell noted that the CBP vetting process was stricter for Chinese illegal immigrants during the Trump administration.

"If I received a Chinese national, we would input them into the DHS database, look through The National Crime Information Center for criminal history in America — and nine times out of 10 these people have never been in America — so they will come back clean," Carrell told the DCNF.

The former agent said he would then set that individual up for deportation, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would send said individual back to China. "Never in a million years would I then process that Chinese national and then just release them into America."

"Now, that person would be interviewed put into the database, and then just simply street-released," Carrell said.

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