Suspected terrorism funder arrested after being released into U.S. at border

(The Center Square) – Another foreign national who entered the U.S. illegally and was released into the country by the Biden administration had an extensive criminal record and was wanted in Venezuela for financing terrorism.

In April 2021, Border Patrol agents arrested a Venezuelan national for illegal entry near San Luis, Arizona, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He was charged with inadmissibility under U.S. immigration law and issued a notice to appear before an immigration judge with the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).

When he was given the notice to appear, he was released on parole into the U.S. pending the outcome of his scheduled immigration hearing.

Four months after he was released into the U.S., in August 2021, a criminal court in Valencia, Venezuela, issued an arrest warrant for him for “charges of continuous fraud, money laundering and association regarding organized crime and financing of terrorism.” Venezuela’s international criminal warrant was the only reason he was arrested because its warrant alerted ERO Chicago officials to his fugitive status.

Two years after he was first apprehended in Arizona by Border Patrol agents, he was again arrested August 8, 2023, by U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Chicago’s Fugitive Operations Team, according to a news release by CBP ERO.

“ERO Chicago is committed to apprehending those who mistakenly believe they can commit crimes and unlawfully hide from justice here,” ERO Chicago acting Field Office Director LaDeon Francis said. “Those who engage in fraud and funding terrorism must be held accountable for their crimes – especially those who have also openly violated our federal immigration laws.”

When ERO Chicago officials began looking for the Venezuelan man, they then confirmed he was living in ERO Chicago’s area of responsibility. Agents located and detained him without incident, they said. The Venezuelan national is currently in ICE custody pending removal proceedings.

This is not the first time a foreign national with ties to terrorism has been released into the U.S. A recent Inspector General report found that a known, suspected terrorist was allegedly released by Yuma Station Border Patrol agents in Arizona because “ineffective practices and processes for resolving inconclusive matches with the Terrorist Watchlist led to multiple mistakes.”

The only reason he was caught was because he was flagged through a Transportation Security Administration airport screening in California when he tried to board a plane heading to Tampa, Florida.

The OIG found that he was released into the U.S. without first confirming that he was on the Terrorist Screening Dataset, otherwise known as the Terrorist Watchlist.

The reason he was released, one Yuma official admitted to the OIG, is because agents were too busy processing a flood of illegal foreign nationals into the country with a station at full capacity, meaning there was nowhere to hold him, and he was released.

Despite agents being overwhelmed with historically high illegal border crossings, agents are still apprehending known and suspected terrorists, according to CBP data. This fiscal year as of July 18, when the data was last updated, Office of Field Operation agents apprehended 61 KSTs at ports of entry at the southwest border. Border Patrol agents apprehend 140 between ports of entry.

Apprehensions of KSTs at the southwest border are significantly lower than apprehensions at the northern border, which total 324 fiscal year to date.

At both borders combined, 525 known, suspected terrorists have been apprehended this fiscal year into July.

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