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Iranians on America’s Terrorist Watchlist Encountered on Southern Border

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has apprehended at least two Iranians at the southern border who were on America’s terrorist watchlist.

By: Virginia Allen, The Daily Signal

Illegal aliens on America’s terrorist watchlist are crossing America’s southern border, including at least two from Iran so far this month, authorities say.

Since Oct. 1, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has apprehended at least two Iranians at the border who are on the watchlist, officially called the Terrorist Screening Data Base, according to Fox News national correspondent Griff Jenkins, who broke the news Monday morning on X, formerly Twitter.

From Oct. 1, 2022, to Aug. 31, 2023, Customs and Border Protection reported encountering 151 illegal aliens on the terrorist watchlist between ports of entry on the southern border, plus 76 more at ports of entry. This number does not include an unknown number of “gotaways” who successfully evaded Border Patrol agents and entered the interior of the U.S.

The number of illegal aliens on the terrorist watchlist encountered by the Border Patrol on the southern border has risen sharply in the past four years—from three in fiscal year 2020 to 15 in fiscal 2021 to 98 in fiscal 2022, and now over 150 in fiscal 2023, which ended Sept. 30.

The terrorist watchlist includes “individuals who represent a potential threat to the United States, including known affiliates of watchlisted individuals,” according to CBP. The government’s chart below refers to the watchlist by the acronym TSDS.

News of Iranians on America’s terrorist watchlist being encountered on the southern border comes just over a week after Hamas launched a terrorist attack on Israel Oct. 7, killing 1,300.

Iran not only served as a “cheerleader” while Hamas terrorists “decapitated babies,” but also likely helped Hamas “in supporting and planning the terror campaign” against Israel, said James Carafano, a national security expert at The Heritage Foundation who is the think tank’s E.W. Richardson fellow and senior counselor to the president. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s news outlet.)

Following Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel, Iran’s top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said his Islamist regime was not involved in the deadly strike.

It’s well known that Iran “has supported Hamas financially by the provision of rockets and arms and by training.” Haleh Esfandiari, an Iranian American who is a distinguished fellow and former director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based think tank The Wilson Center, writes in a recent report.

“Iran’s modus operandi in the Middle East has long been to avoid direct involvement but act through proxies—Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad and Hamas in Gaza, and militias in Iraq—to expand its influence and achieve its policy goals,” Esfandiari writes. “The long-term planning that made last week’s Hamas attack possible strongly suggests an Iranian role.”

Fox News reported last week that the U.S. Border Patrol has encountered 72,823 “special interest aliens” on America’s borders over the past two years—many from the Middle East.

Special interest alien is a government term used to refer to an illegal alien from a nation that promotes terrorist activity, harbors terrorists, or poses a possible security threat to the U.S.

Fox reported that Border Patrol agents encountered 6,386 nationals from Afghanistan between October 2021 and October 2023, as well as 3,153 from Egypt, 659 from Iran, and 538 from Syria. Fox cited data it said had been confirmed by multiple Customs and Border Protection sources.

Additionally, Fox’s Bill Melugin reported, in those two years Border Patrol agents encountered 139 illegal aliens from Yemen, 123 from Iraq, 164 from Lebanon, 1,613 from Pakistan, 15,594 from Mauritania, 13,624 from Uzbekistan, and 30,830 from Turkey.

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