CALEXICO – El Centro Sector Border Patrol confirmed separate arrests of two unidentified men from Yemen this year who were both in the U.S. government’s terrorism watch list.
According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection release, the first arrest occurred Jan. 29, when agents apprehended a man some three miles west of the Calexico port of entry about 1:10 a.m.
Agents transported him to the El Centro Processing Center for immigration and criminal history screening, which CBP said revealed the 33-year-old Yemeni is in FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database as well as on the No-Fly list.
Additionally, agents found a cellular phone sim card hidden underneath the insole of his shoe, the release said.
Border Patrol transferred the man to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the release said.
The second arrest occurred a week ago. CBP said Border Patrol agents assigned to the El Centro Station apprehended a man at 11:30 p.m. on March 30 for illegally entering the United States about two miles west of the Calexico port of entry.
Agents transported him to the El Centro Processing Center, where they learned he was a 26-year-old Yemeni national who was also on the terrorism watch list and the No-Fly list.
CBP said the man is being held in federal custody pending removal.
Border Patrol did not answer whether there is any connection between the two men.
“Our border security efforts are layered and include multiple levels of rigorous screening that allow us to detect and prevent people who pose national security or public safety risks from entering the United States,” a CBP spokesman told this newspaper in an email.
The spokesman said DHS works with international partners to share intelligence and other information, including to prevent individuals on the terrorist watch list from entering the United States. He said CBP checks individuals encountered at and between ports of entry against several classified and unclassified databases to determine if they pose a threat to national security, consistent with the law.
“While encounters of known and suspected terrorists at our borders are very uncommon, they underscore the importance of the critical work our agents carry out on a daily basis to vet all individuals encountered at our borders,” the spokesman wrote.
“Part of the Border Patrol’s mission states we will protect the country from terrorists,” Chief Patrol Agent Gregory K. Bovino said in the release. “Today, like every other day, our agents did that. These apprehensions at our border illustrates the importance of our mission and how we can never stop being vigilant in our everyday mission to protect this great country.”