Federal immigration authorities caught and released a Pakistani man who illegally crossed America’s southern border and whose name appeared on the nation’s terror watchlist, according to a memo from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reviewed by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The Pakistani national entered the U.S. illegally Nov. 9 and was nabbed by the Border Patrol the next day in Tecate, California, according to the memo, which was received from two different sources in the Department of Homeland Security, parent agency to both ICE and the Border Patrol.


While the Pakistani was in Border Patrol custody Nov. 22, the Terrorism Screening Center confirmed that he was a positive match on the terror watchlist, according to the memo.

Despite this, the memo says, the terror suspect was released Jan. 23 from the custody of ICE’s San Diego office after the agency served him with an Order of Release on Recognizance with tracking technology through a program called Alternatives to Detention.

Border agents served th e Pakistani with an expedited removal order Nov. 11, after which he said that he had a credible fear of going back to Pakistan, according to the memo.

On Jan. 24, however, the ICE office in San Diego informed the agency’s office in Los Angeles of the man’s presence on the terror watchlist, along with his “mandatory detention requirement,” and had him report on his own to the Alternatives to Detention check-in office. ICE in Los Angeles was able to arrest him when he showed up for the check-in.

“Imagine how many cases like this one get through without us knowing,” one Department of Homeland Security official told the Daily Caller News Foundation on the condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

When individuals are placed in expedited removal proceedings, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, asylum officers conduct interviews to determine which of them has a “well-founded fear of persecution on account of your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion if returned to your country.”

This fear could keep asyum-seekers from returning home and allow them to access the asylum process. 

If an asylum officer denies it is a credible claim of fear, the individual can ask to have his case heard by an immigration judge.

Immigration judges each have an average of 4,500 pending cases, according to a December report from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

The Daily Caller News Foundation isn’t publishing the internal agency memo or the name of the individual on the terror watchlist to protect the identities of confidential sources. The memo didn’t disclose the terror organization with which the individual has a connection.

“One of the biggest issues in preventing terrorists from entering the United States, in my opinion, is the backlog of records checks being run by the massive amounts of people flooding the border,” a second DHS official said. “When it takes more than three months for an agency to determine if someone is/was a Known Suspected Terrorist, that is a huge problem.”

“Who knows how many after-the-fact realizations were made after releasing someone into the country,” this second official said. “We may never know until they are encountered by law enforcement at a later date. Very well after it’s too late.”

The Border Patrol caught 172 individuals on the terrorist watchlist attempting to enter the United States illegally in fiscal year 2023, which ended Sept. 30. From October through December, the Border Patrol recorded 50 encounters with individuals on the terrorist watchlist, according to federal data.

Border Patrol agents also recorded 98 encounters with individuals on the terror watchlist in fiscal year 2022 and 16 in fiscal year 2021, according to the data.

ICE officers in Minnesota nabbed a member of the Somali terror group al-Shabaab on Jan. 20 after authorities released him shortly after he illegally crossed the southern border near San Ysidro, California, on March 13, 2023, according to an internal federal memo obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The Terrorist Screening Center deemed the 27-year-old Somali national a “mismatch’” on the watchlist, but later determined that he was a confirmed member of al-Shabaab.

ICE didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Border Patrol agents caught an individual Tuesday who crossed the southern border illegally and admitted to previous ties to a Colombian terrorist organization, according to an internal memo Feb. 6 from Customs and Border Protection exclusively obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

This report originally was published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

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