- Border Patrol arrested an Afghan national whose name appeared on the terror watchlist on Feb. 5 after he crossed the southern border illegally into California, according to an internal federal memo exclusively obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- Afghan national Arif Tanhah was a “positive match” on the terror watchlist as a “known associate” of a terrorist organization, according to the memo.
- The DCNF has recently reported on an influx of terror-watchlisted individuals crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, some of whom have been released from federal custody for periods of time.
Federal authorities nabbed an Afghan national on the terror watchlist on Feb. 5 after he crossed the southern border illegally into California, according to an internal federal memo exclusively obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Border Patrol agents arrested Arif Tanhah, 30, in California’s San Diego sector at the Jacumba Hot Springs and determined that he was a “positive match” on the terror watchlist as a “known associate” of a terrorist organization, according to the memo. While the memo didn’t disclose which terrorist organization Tanhah was allegedly associated with, the illegal immigrant denied ever having connections to Al Qaeda or the Taliban, according to notes accounting his interview with a federal agent reviewed by the DCNF.
The Afghan national admitted during an interview after crossing the border to being arrested for four days in 2011 after U.S. commandos and Afghan forces raided his family’s home in Afghanistan, according to the interview notes. Tanhah “deflected and refused to answer” when the federal agent asked why authorities raided his home and arrested him. (RELATED: ‘Go F*ck Themselves’: Rank-And-File Border Patrol Agents Slam Senate Funding Deal)
The DCNF isn’t publishing the notes of the Afghan nationals background interview to protect sources. Tanhah, who has made a credible fear claim of returning to Afghanistan, is in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody pending his case proceedings, according to an ICE source.
Asylum officers interview migrants to determine whether or not an individual has a “well-founded fear of persecution on account of your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion if returned to your country” that would keep them from returning home and place them into asylum proceedings, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
During his interview process, Tanhah told a U.S. federal agent that he traveled from Afghanistan to Iran, then Qatar, where he got a visa for Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Panama to make his way to the U.S. Along the way, Tanhah said he was stopped twice for biometric checks and questioning.
Tanhah said he spent $20,000 to reach the U.S., and that his primary source of funding is a brother in Kuwait, according to the interview notes.
He also shared that he was denied entry into Europe in 2020 and lived in Dubai from 2014 to 2019, where he did roofing. Tanhah stated that he didn’t know why he was denied entry into Europe.
The DCNF also reviewed the TikTok account Tanhah gave to federal authorities, which has more than 54,000 followers and appears to showcase parts of his journey, showing that his goal was to reach Canada. In his interview with the U.S. agent, Tanhah provided an address in San Antonio, Texas, where he said he planned to reside with the goal of permanently remaining in the U.S.
The TikTok account has a bio that reads “i love allah” and a series of posts showing his journey to the U.S., along with his Muslim faith. One of the posts reads “may allah protect Palestine” with an image of the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
Border Patrol recorded the apprehensions of 172 individuals on the terrorist watchlist entering the United States illegally in fiscal year 2023. From October through December, Border Patrol recorded 50 encounters of terror watchlisted individuals, according to federal data.
Agents also recorded 98 encounters of individuals whose names appeared on the terror watchlist in fiscal year 2022 and 16 in fiscal year 2021, according to the data.
In recent weeks, the DCNF has reported on an influx of terror watchlisted migrants crossing the southern border illegally, some of whom have been released from federal custody for periods of time.
On Jan. 20, ICE officers in Minnesota arrested a member of the Somali terror group al-Shabaab after authorities released him shortly after he illegally crossed the southern border near San Ysidro, California, in March, according to an internal federal memo recently obtained by the DCNF. The Terrorist Screening Center deemed the 27-year-old Somali national “mismatch’” on the watchlist, but later determined to be a confirmed member of al-Shabaab after he was in the country for nearly a year.
On Feb. 6, Border agents nabbed an individual who crossed the southern border illegally and admitted to his previous ties to a Colombian terrorist organization, according to an internal Customs and Border Protection (CBP) memo exclusively obtained by the DCNF.
Federal immigration authorities also recently released a Pakistani national who illegally crossed the southern border into California whose name appeared on the terror watchlist for one day, according to an ICE memo reviewed by the DCNF.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) didn’t respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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