Texas Republican introduces bill requiring CBP to screen migrants against federal terrorist watch list

FIRST ON FOX: Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, will introduce a bill in the House of Representatives this week that would require federal immigration authorities to screen all migrants who come across the U.S. border against the FBI’s terror watch list.

The measure, the Identifying Potential Terrorist at the Border Act of 2024, would require U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to screen each migrant that crosses the U.S. border, whether legally or illegally, against the terror watch list and detain those migrants until a cross-reference search of each one has been completed.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection shall take into and maintain custody over an alien until the Commissioner cross references the name of such alien with the terrorist screening database and a result for such cross reference is received by the Commissioner,” the measure states.

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Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, will introduce a bill this week that would require federal immigration authorities to screen all migrants who come across the U.S. border against the FBI’s terror watch list. (Getty Images)

“We are a land of laws, and it is past time this administration acts like it,” Williams said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “Joe Biden is encouraging a deadly invasion of fighting-age men on American soil, and each day this Democrat-created influx of illegal aliens allows bad actors to slip past Border Patrol undetected. Under current law, CBP is not required to screen migrants against the terrorist watchlist database, and as we have seen too often, dangerous criminals are released into our nation who go on to harm American citizens and communities.

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“My bill requires CBP to screen and detain all individuals attempting to cross the border until a match is returned on that migrant. Now more than ever, we must be aware of who is in our country as Republicans fight to restore law and order and end Biden’s deadly open border policies that are destroying America,” Williams added.

Williams’ measure comes after Patrick Lechleitner, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), revealed earlier this year that a terrorist was allowed to roam freely in the U.S. for nearly a year after crossing into the country illegally at the border.

At a February briefing, Lechleitner said the terrorist was arrested within 48 hours, only after ICE “became aware.”

Immigrants are photographed at a U.S. Border Patrol processing center after they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border Dec. 7, 2023, in Lukeville, Ariz. (John Moore/Getty Images)

The admission from Lechleitner followed a report by The Daily Caller that federal authorities caught a terrorist illegally crossing into the U.S. via the southern border in March 2023. However, the terrorist was then released into the U.S. due to a “mismatch” after his name was run through the terror watch list, The Daily Caller reported.

The unnamed terrorist was a member of al-Shabab and was captured last month in Minneapolis, according to the outlet.

“A 27-year-old Somali native entered near San Ysidro, California, without inspection on March 13, 2023, and was arrested that same day by U.S. Border Patrol,” ICE spokesperson Erin Bultje told Fox News earlier this year. “On Jan. 18, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) received information regarding the noncitizen’s threat to national security and took the noncitizen into ICE custody on Jan. 20, where he is currently detained in accordance with ICE policy, subject to the ongoing evaluation of their case.”

Earlier this month, it was revealed that an individual on the terror watch list — 40-year-old Carlos Obed Yepez-Bedoya — was apprehended after illegally crossing the Texas border in February. CBP sources told Fox News Digital that Yepez-Bedoya was a “positive match” on the terror watchlist but did not name the terror organization.

Williams’ measure comes as illegal immigration has become a major 2024 election issue and remains a thorny issue for President Biden and his administration. Polls show that more than half of Americans think large numbers of illegal immigrants entering the U.S. represent a critical threat to the country.

Border patrol agents process migrants who entered the U.S. illegally the day before taking them to a port of entry in Jacumba, Calif., Dec. 6, 2023. (Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)

The southern border crisis, now into its third year, has smashed multiple records with more than 2.4 million encounters in fiscal 2023 and over 300,000 in December alone, breaking the record for monthly encounters.

There were 169 encounters of people between ports of entry at the southern border on the FBI’s terror watch list in 2023, according to CBP data.

Fox News’ Lorraine Taylor, Adam Shaw, and Bill Melugin contributed to this report.

Kyle Morris covers politics for Fox News. Story tips can be sent via email and on X: @RealKyleMorris.

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