A smuggling network has managed to sneak illegal immigrants from Middle Eastern terrorism hotbeds straight to the doorstep of the U.S., including helping one Afghan who authorities say was part of an attack plot in North America.
Immigration officials have identified at least a dozen Middle Eastern men smuggled into the Western Hemisphere by a Brazilian-based network that connected them with Mexicans who guided them to the U.S. border, according to internal government documents reviewed by The Washington Times.
Those smuggled included Palestinians, Pakistanis and the Afghan man who Homeland Security officials said had family ties to the Taliban and was “involved in a plot to conduct an attack in the U.S. and/or Canada.” He is in custody, but The Times is withholding his name at the request of law enforcement to protect investigations.
Some of the men handled by the smuggling network were nabbed before they reached the U.S., but others made it into the country. The Afghan man was part of a group of six from “special-interest countries.”
The group, guided by two Mexicans employed by the smuggling network, crawled under the border fence in Arizona late last year and made it about 15 miles north before being detected by border surveillance, according to the documents, which were obtained by Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican.
Mr. Hunter wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson this week demanding answers about the breakdowns in the process.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the chief agency charged with sniffing out smuggling networks, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol and initially failed to find the terrorist connections, declined to comment. Homeland Security, which oversees both agencies, didn’t provide an answer either.
The group of six men nabbed inside the U.S.–the Afghan and five men identified as Pakistanis–all made asylum claims when they were eventually caught by the Border Patrol. Mr. Hunter said his understanding is that the five men from Pakistan were released based on those claims and have disappeared.