EAGLE PASS, Texas — According to a source within CBP, the influx of Special Interest Migrants across the U.S./Mexico border continues early in the NEW fiscal year as nearly 100 Syrian and 50 Iranian nationals have been apprehended by the Border Patrol since the beginning of October. The source says the influx of Syrian and Iranian Special Interest Migrants is concerning, considering the turmoil unfolding in the Middle East.
The Syrian and Iranian migrants were apprehended in multiple sectors across the southwest border during October. The latest arrest of an Iranian national by the Border Patrol occurred near Eagle Pass, Texas, on Saturday. The Iranian national was discovered within a single group of more than 300 that crossed into the small border city. A debrief of the Iranian migrant is pending as of press time, according to the source.
The source says the continued encounter of Syrian and Iranian nationals is more concerning considering the recent U.S. air strikes against Iran-linked sites in Syria in response to drone and missile attacks on U.S. military bases in the region. According to the source, the arrivals of Special Interest Migrants at the southwest border are appearing with little to no advance intelligence warning.
“We are receiving no advance warning of the arrival of Special Interest Migrants from the region with any specificity,” the source explained. “We are left to sort through the grab-bag of migrants in small and large groups to figure out who is in the group and why they are coming.”
Eleven Special Interest Migrants from Middle Eastern countries were apprehended in just one sector of the border patrol in one week alone.
As reported by Breitbart Texas, during the week of October 8 to October 14, Border Patrol agents apprehended six Iranian nationals, three Lebanese nationals, one Egyptian national, and one Saudi Arabian national that made landfall in Texas on the banks of the Rio Grande in the Del Rio Border Patrol Sector that includes Eagle Pass.
The Syrian and Iranian Special Interest Migrants are mostly single adult males. Both countries are subject to travel warnings by the U.S. State Department. The State Department has issued a Level-4 advisory regarding travel to Syria due to terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, armed conflict, and the risk of unjust detention.
Iran is also subject to a Level-4 travel warning by the State Department due to the risk of kidnapping and the arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens.
The source says, absent any significant intelligence indicting a Special Interest migrant may pose a known threat to the United States, they are generally released into the U.S. to pursue asylum claims.
As reported by Breitbart Texas, more than 61,000 Special Interest Migrants were encountered by the Border Patrol in Fiscal Year 2023, which ended on September 30. The number of migrants from Special Interest countries climbed by more than 140 percent from Fiscal Year 2022, when more than 25,500 were apprehended. In all, more than 86,000 Special Interest migrants have illegally entered the United States in the previous two fiscal years.
According to a 2019 DHS fact sheet, the term “Significant Interest Alien” 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 employ 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.
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.