According to a Department of Homeland Security report reviewed by Breitbart Texas, 61,471 migrants from “Special Interest Countries” entered the United States in Fiscal Year 2023. According to a source within CBP, most of the migrants, mainly single adult males from countries subject to travel warnings by the U.S. State Department due to terrorism, were released into the United States to pursue asylum claims.
The number of migrants from special interest countries climbed by more than 140% from fiscal year 2022 when Border Patrol agents encountered more than 25,500 Special Interest migrants across the southwest border. In all, more than 86,000 “Special Interest Aliens” made the crossing in two years.
According to a 2019 DHS fact sheet, the term “Significant Interest Alien” (SIA) is defined as follows:
Generally, an SIA is a non-U.S. person who, based on an analysis of travel patterns, potentially poses a national security risk to the United States or its interests. Often such individuals or groups are employing travel patterns known or evaluated to possibly have a nexus to terrorism. DHS analysis includes an examination of travel patterns, points of origin, and/or travel segments that are tied to current assessments of national and international threat environments.
This does not mean that all SIAs are “terrorists,” but rather that the travel and behavior of such individuals indicate a possible nexus to nefarious activity (including terrorism) and, at a minimum, provide indicators that necessitate heightened screening and further investigation. The term SIA does not indicate any specific derogatory information about the individual – and DHS has never indicated that the SIA designation means more than that.
More than 15,000 Special Interest Migrants from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania were apprehended entering the United States from Mexico during the latest fiscal year, which ended on September 30. According to the CIA World Factbook, the Northwestern African country is still working to address a continuing practice of slavery and its vestiges. Although officially abolished in 1981, slavery was not criminalized until 2007. As of 2022, the practice of slavery still exists among most ethnic groups inside the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, according to a United Nations report.
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In July 2023, the State Department’s travel warning to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania lists crime and terrorism as the main concern to discourage travel by United States citizens.
More than 15,400 Turkish nationals were apprehended as well. Concerning travel to Turkey, the U.S. State Department cautions:
Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Turkey. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas.
According to the CBP source, many of the migrants from Special Interest countries may be fleeing the issues related to terrorism, crime, kidnappings, and unlawful detentions in their home country as cited by the U.S. State Department. The source, however, is alarmed by the potential national security risk posed by some within that category.
“It’s understandable that people will flee from countries where terrorism exists, but with such high numbers of migrants from everywhere crossing daily, it’s hard to distinguish between those fleeing the conditions and those who may be actively participating in those activities,” the source explained.
Although most of the focus on illegal immigration at the southern border with Mexico falls on the high number of migrants from Venezuela and Central America, little media attention is focused on migrants from Special Interest countries. This is, in part, because the statistics regarding their apprehension and any disposition of their immigration cases are closely guarded by the Department of Homeland Security and not generally released to the public.
According to the source, in Fiscal Year 2023, migrants from more than 280 countries were apprehended by the Border Patrol, including those from 34 countries listed as Special Interest countries. Among the remainder of Special Interest Aliens entering the United States during FY 23 were more than 5,600 Afghans, 3,000 Egyptians, nearly 2,500 Somalis, 2,500 citizens of Bangladesh, nearly 1,300 Pakistanis, 1,200 Eritreans, and almost 1,000 nationals of Tajikistan and Kazakstan.
Nearly 1,700 special interest migrants from Iran, Syria, Morrocco, Jordan, Djibouti, Iraq, Yemen, Turkmenistan, Algeria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates also made entry into the United States.
The SIAs enter in small numbers daily at almost all parts of the southwest border. As reported by Breitbart Texas, larger numbers of migrants from outside the hemisphere, including those from Special Interest countries, are more frequently encountered in Arizona.
During one recent trip to the border region near Lukeville, Arizona, Breitbart Texas observed more than 300 migrants surrender to awaiting Border Patrol agents from a multitude of non-Spanish speaking countries. The migrant group included citizens from mostly western African nations, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, and China.
In just one day in September, according to the source, more than 240 migrants from Special Interest countries entered the United States from Mexico. Most, according to the source were released to pursue asylum claims within the United States.
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to fix a typographical error regarding the total number of “Special Interest Aliens apprehended during the past two years.