Border Patrol agents in the Laredo Sector arrested more than 190 Bangladeshi nationals who illegally crossed the border from Mexico into Texas since October 1, 2017. This number of illegal border crossers from a country that many call a hotbed of terrorism is more than were arrested in all of Fiscal Year 2017, officials told Breitbart Texas on Thursday.
“When we talk about the different groups that are crossing into an area, what we’re trying to draw attention to is a more comprehensive look at our threat picture,” Acting Chief Patrol Agent Jason D. Owens told Breitbart Texas during a recent phone interview. “We need to stay away from just focusing on the family units and Unaccompanied Alien Children that are coming from Central America and Mexico. What the men and women of the U.S. Border Patrol are dealing with on a daily basis is so much more complex than that.”
Border Patrol agents in the sector Owens commands arrested 191 Bangladeshi nationals who illegally crossed the border from Mexico into South Texas since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2018 in October, according to information provided to Breitbart Texas by Laredo Sector officials. During the entire FY 2017, Laredo Sector agents arrested only 181 Bangladeshi nationals, Chief Owens stated. During FY 2016, there was only one Bangladeshi arrested in the Laredo sector.
“You have to look not only at the numbers of folks coming across in our Area of Responsibility (AOR),” Owens explained, “but also, who they are and where they’re from because that very much affects how we meet the threat.”
“When you have countries like Bangladesh that have had potential ties to terrorism in the past — well, these folks that are coming from that country, what is their intent when they are crossing into the United States illegally?” the sector chief asked. “What is their ultimate destination? What is their goal?”
Bangladesh has been described by many as a hotbed of terrorist activity. In March 2017, the British government issued a travel advisory for Bangladesh to its citizens warning of potential terror attacks. The warning cited several incidents of terrorist activity in the months leading up to the travel advisory’s issuance.
In 2016, CNN and The Economist spotlighted terrorist activity in Bangladesh. And, in February 2017, the Tony Blair’s Institute for Global Change wrote, “Bangladesh is alternately heralded as a beacon of tolerance and secularism in the Muslim-majority world or a hotbed of Islamist militancy.”
Border Patrol Agent Hector Garza, in his capacity as president of the National Border Patrol Council Local 2455, told Breitbart Texas the apprehension of these Bangladeshi nationals in the Laredo sector shows there is a “clear pipeline” from countries that are home to terrorists through Mexico and into the U.S.
“We have been lucky to catch these groups but there is no telling how many other people from countries that sponsor terrorism could be utilizing that same pipeline,” Agent Garza stated.
Laredo Sector Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Gabriel Acosta told Breitbart Texas on Thursday that the Bangladeshi nationals do not pick their point of entry into the U.S. “That is determined by the transnational criminal organization (TCO) that works with the smugglers from the country of origin, into South America, up through Central America, and into Mexico,” Acosta explained. “They are paying upward of $27,000 each to be smuggled into the U.S.”
Acosta said the Bangladeshis are not trying to be sneaky in crossing the border nor are they trying to avoid detection and arrest. “They have been coached by the TCO on what to say and how to make a ‘credible fear’ claim,” he stated.
Acosta said the Bangladeshis typically begin their journey from their home country to Brazil. From there, they utilize nearly any form of transportation available. Those include planes, trains, boats, horses, and even walking, he explained. Some of the people being smuggled pay their fee upfront while others arrive in the U.S. in debt and have to work off the fees after they arrive at their destination.
Of the 191 Bangladeshi’s captured during the first half of FY 2018, 100 percent were males, mostly between the ages of 18-35, Acosta stated.
FBI agents with the Joint Terrorism Task Force are notified each time a group of Bangladeshis are arrested, he explained. The agents conduct a throughout background check and biometric scan. The agents also check the names against the terrorist watch list.
Acosta said a “small number” of these checks resulted in finding “derogatory information.” He said this is most often an association with someone who is already designated as a person of interest.
Chief Owens said there have been incidents where some of the adult Bangladeshi males have attempted to present themselves as minors. “We have had incidents where some would attempt to present themselves as juveniles, or represent themselves as family units when in fact there is no blood relationship,” Owens stated. “The interviewers will try and bear that out as to whether or not it’s true.”
“Everybody that we encounter will get turned over to ICE ERO (Enforcement and Removal Operations),” Owens explained. “From there, their removal proceedings are handled by that agency after a hearing.”
Assistant Chief Acosta explained further. “Because of the ‘credible fear’ law and the coaching received by the Bangladeshis from the TCOs, ERO officers will issue a notice to appear for a future immigration hearing. “In many cases, we will never see them again,” he said.
The Laredo Sector chief said these Bangladeshis are a great example of why the U.S. needs to look differently at the border.
“For us, its important that when folks are looking at border security as an issue, that we look at the threat in a holistic fashion,” Owens explained. “Don’t just focus on the numbers of people coming across. You have to also look at what that makeup is and also who is responsible. Because that actually goes to the threat that not only exists along the border but into the interior as well.”
“You may not have 50,000 people crossing every single month,” Cheif Owens concluded, “but those that are crossing may pose a very significant threat in their own right.”
Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas. He is a founding member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX, GAB, and Facebook.
(Disclosure: Breitbart Texas sponsored the Green Line podcast for the NBPC in an effort to provide a platform for agents to inform the public about the realities on the border and what Border Patrol agents face. Director Brandon Darby received an award from the Laredo chapter of the NBPC for his work in helping to defend and bring a voice to Border Patrol agents. Breitbart News assisted in covering funeral costs for a slain Border Patrol agent previously.)