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Top Republican: Border Patrol caught people on terrorist watch list at U.S.-Mexico border

House GOP Leader says border agents told him Iran, Yemen and Sri Lanka citizens have been caught at the southern border

Updated: March 15, 2021 - 4:00pm

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Republican Rep. John Katko, ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Monday during a trip to the southern border that U.S. Border Patrol has apprehended individuals who were on the terrorist watchlist.

"Something that very much concerns me as the Homeland Security ranking member is people they've caught in the last few days over there in sector three or monument three, have been on the terror watchlist," Katko, a former federal organized crime and narcotics prosecutor, said during a news conference in El Paso with House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and other Republican lawmakers. "Individuals that they have on the watchlist for terrorism are now starting to exploit the southern border. We need to wake up. We need to understand."

McCarthy said some border agents told him they've encountered individuals from the Middle East attempting to cross into the U.S. illegally.

"I asked them, 'Who are the individuals you're catching?' Yeah, they're from Central America. But do you know who else? Iran, Yemen, Sri Lanka," he said. "When I walked through the facility, there's more Haitians than any other nationality I saw. And why were they coming now? We asked the border agents, they were shocked themselves – because they're being released into the country."

The group of GOP lawmakers said President Biden's executive actions that rolled back many Trump-era immigration policies have resulted in a more dangerous situation at the border. Biden has ended former President Trump's "Remain in Mexico" policy that required asylum seekers encountered at the border to wait for their court hearings in Mexico. A total of 25,000 migrants are being transferred in phases into the U.S. after Biden's elimination of the "Stay in Mexico" policy. Biden has also restored the Obama-era "catch and release" policy.

"Mr. President Biden, you're an okay guy. Why don't you just admit you made a mistake with this policy and go back to the way it was and keep America safe for all of us?" Katko said.

Some of the migrants released into U.S. cities in Texas and North Carolina have tested positive for COVID-19.

"When I talk to the doctor to see when they're being tested for COVID. When they get out, more than 10% are testing positive, and you're being stored together. In a time when our president will keep our country closed," McCarthy said. "And maybe we have hope for a fourth of July to get together just with our family. How much spread of COVID is he creating every single day by his policies along this border? It's wrong snd it has to end. It needs to end now."