Two men from Bangladesh illegally cross the U.S. Mexico border in McAllen, Texas hoping to obtain political asylum. (Photo: Sara A. Carter)

“This week, I published a policy report for the Independent Women’s Forum on border security. The report focused on my recent trip to McAllen, Texas, my reporting on the U.S. Mexico border and the serious national security implications associated with the failure to resolve the crisis.” 

The two Bangladeshi men, known as Special Interest Aliens by the Department of Homeland Security,  made their way down an old dirt road that buttresses land owned by a private citizen. It was just 500 yards from the U.S. Mexico border and the Rio Grande River. Like thousands before them, they were smuggled by criminal trafficking organizations operating in Reynosa, Mexico into McAllen, Texas more than a week ago.

People from Bangladesh are considered a significantly higher national security risk by the DHS because terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and Islamic State are present in the nation. The two men, who were eventually apprehended by Border Patrol agents, will be counted against the Department of Homeland Security’s 2019 total for Special Interest Aliens attempting to enter the U.S. illegally . As for 2018, the numbers are significant, say law enforcement officials. Roughly 1500 Special Interest Aliens were apprehended by Border Patrol agents in 2018, according to one former and current senior law enforcement official. In 2011, the number of SIAs apprehended by Border Patrol agents were just over 600.

Moreover, it is one of the many reasons President Donald Trump is fighting for the extension of the border wall and more resources for federal law enforcement officials. The battle between the administration and Democrats has resulted in the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. And the president said he will update the nation Saturday afternoon from White House. It is not certain yet, what he will do. Although, Trump said he has the option of declaring border security a national emergency. 



“The safety and security of America must be the top priority,”

For this reason, said Derek Maltz, a former Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the DOJ, DEA, and Special Operations Division (SOD), the dangers increase when considering the number of  Special Interest Aliens attempting to cross the U.S. southern border.

“The safety and security of America must be the top priority,” said Maltz, who advocates for stricter border security. “There are evil people around the world with very dangerous agendas that are trying to hurt our country. We can’t allow SIAs to illegally come into this great country, we need security now…We must secure the border and update the laws before it too late”

I had no idea who these Bangladeshi men were. All I could gauge is that as they walked up the road they appeared tired and confused. Upon seeing this reporter, they went down on their knees and lifted their arms in surrender.

At first, I explained in Spanish, I wasn’t with law enforcement but a reporter seeking answers to questions. They didn’t understand me. I asked if they spoke English and one of the men said “a little.” He spoke to me, with his hands still hesitantly up in the air. I then offered him water and asked if he was injured. He took the bottle of water, signaled that he was unharmed and shared it with his companion, who was still on his knees.

Hidden In The Brush


At first the two Bangladeshi men were hidden by acres of rough thorny brush and trees that make up the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. They were difficult to see until they rounded a bend in the road. The pair had traveled nearly three months and over 9,000 miles from Bangladesh by plane, car, bus and foot. By the time they spotted me on the road they had no idea they had already crossed the America border.

They had no backpacks or identification. They were simply hoping to get into the United States to declare political asylum, they said.

“Why are you here?” I said.

“Political,” he said.


“Political asylum?” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

It would have been almost impossible for them to come in legally, despite the money they had raised to pay their traffickers, which they said totaled $16,000 a piece. They did not speak good English and an ICE officer, who frequently encounters people smuggled from Bangladesh said the cost is usually $60,000 to smuggle them into the U.S. and the cost was probably “lost in translation” when they spoke to me.

The ICE official noted because they are SIA’s the cost of smuggling them is significantly higher.


“They have been told by the smugglers what to say and how to get around our legal system,” said the ICE officer, on condition that he not be named. “There isn’t a person we don’t take into custody that doesn’t claim asylum. We let them go with an order to report to court. They almost never appear and disappear into our country.”

By no means is the crossing of the Bangladeshi men an aberration, said a Border Patrol official in the McAllen sector, “we see them all the time.”

Bangladeshi Illegal Migration Increased 300 percent from 2017

According to a January, 2019 Homeland Security Report, “DHS Border Patrol Agents routinely encounter SIAs at the border. It was recently reported that, as of September 2018, 630 Bangladeshi nationals have been arrested in Fiscal Year 2018 trying to enter the U.S. illegally in Laredo, Texas alone—a 300 percent increase from FY2017.”

And the issue of Special Interest Aliens is just one of a litany of national security concerns President Donald Trumphas addressed in recent weeks as he battles Democrats that refuse to compromise on the $5.7 billion requestedby the administration to extend and reinforce the border wall.

The president’s concerns are very real, say DHS and other law enforcement officials, who spoke to this reporter. The roughly 1500 SIA’s apprehended in 2018  “highlight the very real threat we face in determining who is entering the country,” a senior Federal Law Enforcement official said.

In 2017, that number was just over 1200 individuals and in 2016, approximately 1400 SIAs were apprehended, according to DHS statistics.

But for the White House making the case for border security has been a difficult one.

This month, the White House faced a backlash when administration officials misconstrued the number stating that nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists “that came across our southern border” in 2018 were apprehended by Border Patrol. Those numbers were from 2017, and conflated with the number of terrorists stopped at airports all across the globe , as well as the border.

It didn’t take Democrats long to conflate their own statements, and accuse the White House of exaggerating a crisis they said does not exist. Democrats pushed the narrative that the majority of illegal migrants are innocent Central American’s fleeing desperate dangerous situations. They failed to tell the American people what they know as well, that the porous border presents a clear danger to national security.

“It’s a serious crisis, whether the numbers are mixed up or not, 1500 SIAs is alarming, when you consider all the people we didn’t apprehend,” added the senior Federal law enforcement official. “It gets worse by the minute because we refuse to fix our broken immigration system.”

A January 2019, report from the House Homeland Security Staff referenced the crisis, stating that tens of thousands of SIAs have traveled from their nation of origin through South America, Central America and Mexico attempting to gain entry into the United States.

“On a recent Committee staff delegation trip to Latin America, Panamanian officials communicated to Committee staff that tens of thousands of SIAs have entered Panama since 2014,” the report states. “In both countries, nearly all the SIA migrants were headed to the United States and originated from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa—including Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Bangladesh, India, Eritrea, and many others.”

The report also noted that the SIA apprehensions “resulted in the seizure of tens of thousands of fraudulent documents—including passports and visas—that facilitated travel from their countries of origin through the Americas.”

Trafficking Illegal Immigrants From Countries associated with Terrorism

The man from Bangladesh who spoke a little English, said his name was Pream, to the best of my understanding. He attempted to explain to me the route he took to arrive in McAllen, Texas. He said, he and his companion, had traveled from Bangladesh by plane to Dubai. After reaching Dubai, they eventually made their way to Brazil. There are significantly less travel restrictions in Brazil for those traveling from abroad, ICE officials told me.

“Brazil is a main first hub for people traveling from overseas who are attempting to enter the United States illegally,” said a federal law enforcement official, with direct knowledge of the issue. “Once they are in Brazil, many SIAs make their way to Panama and then through Central America, Mexico and final destination the United States.”

As stated in the Homeland Security report, many of the SIAs go through Panama or Columbia before being trafficked through Central America. And a long standing agreement with Panama to help track those attempting to travel to the U.S. illegally has helped identify and stop some dangerous illegal migrants from making their way to the U.S., a U.S. government official said.

The Panamanian government tracks SIAs through a Biometric records system. Foreigners entering Panama are put into the system, which is located throughout various checkpoints in the country. That system has resulted in the enrollment of 33,000 individuals, mainly traveling to the U.S. illegally, from Fiscal Year 2011 to Fiscal Year 2018. Of those individuals recorded, 25,000 have been deemed Special Interest Aliens and roughly 8,000 have had a criminal history.

More importantly, 60 individuals that Panamanian authorities have registered since 2011 in the Biometric system “were known or suspected terrorists,” the U.S. government official added.

“These are the ones we catch,” the government source said. “What about the hundreds or thousands of SIAs that slip through the cracks and what about those tied to terrorism?”

In fact, there are no real metrics to gauge how many illegal immigrants make their way into the United States without being detected and more importantly where they are from, the official added.

THE ILLEGAL ALIENS KNOW OUR SYSTEM

The area along the Rio Grande Valley River is desolate. Some old abandoned houses, a trailer and a smoke stack are all that’s left of the Texans that used to call this area home.

But it has long been used for illicit trafficking. Since the 1800s criminal organizations moved contraband and people on the same road taken by the two Bangladeshi men, who arrived just a day before President Trump made his visit to McAllen, Texas.

On Thursday, after the president left back to Washington D.C. I headed back down to the border where I had my encounter with the men.

It was dark and I could barely see in front of me. Only twenty minutes after arriving a group of eight illegal immigrants with small flashlights made their way down the very same dirt road. There were two children with them, a woman and several men.

This group was actually looking for Border Patrol agents to turn themselves in. When I asked them why they were coming they said in Spanish what the Bangladeshi men said in English, “asylum.”

“Asylum from what?” I asked, in Spanish.

“From the gangs,” they said.

That night more than 240 illegal immigrants were apprehended by Border Patrol crossing illegally into the Rio Grande Valley.

Without fail, said one Border Patrol agent working that sector, they all had the same story “we are seeking asylum.”

“It’s a dangerous situation,” the agent added. “One of these days, our government is going to regret doing nothing but by then it might be too late for some people. Even now, sometimes it feels like it already is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the numbers for 2018, which have not been officially released, …several U.S. government officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told SaraACarter.com that roughly 1500 Special Interest Aliens, known as SIAs, were apprehended at the U.S. border by Border Patrol agents last year. SIA’s are illegal aliens from countries considered to be a significant threat to America because of their nation’s suspected ties to terrorist organizations and many have found unique ways of traveling throughout the western hemisphere to enter the U.S. illegally.

Derek Maltz, a former Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the DOJ, DEA, and Special Operations Division (SOD), said the numbers are staggering and the consequences of doing nothing to secure the border makes America’s security vulnerable.

“The safety and security of America must be the top priority,” said Maltz, who advocates for stricter border security. “There are evil people around the world with very dangerous agendas that are trying to hurt our country. We can’t allow SIAs to illegally come into this great country, we need security now…We must secure the border and update the laws before it too late”

I had no idea who these Bangladeshi men were. All I could gauge is that as they walked up the road they appeared tired and confused. Upon seeing this reporter, they went down on their knees and lifted their arms in surrender.

At first, I explained in Spanish, I wasn’t with law enforcement but a reporter seeking answers to questions. They didn’t understand me. I asked if they spoke English and one of the men said “a little.” He spoke to me, with his hands still hesitantly up in the air. I then offered him water and asked if he was injured. He took the bottle of water, signaled that he was unharmed and shared it with his companion, who was still on his knees.

Hidden In The Brush

At first the two Bangladeshi men were hidden by acres of rough thorny brush and trees that make up the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. They were difficult to see until they rounded a bend in the road. The pair had traveled nearly three months and over 9,000 miles from Bangladesh by plane, car, bus and foot. By the time they spotted me on the road they had no idea they had already crossed the America border.

They had no backpacks or identification. They were simply hoping to get into the United States to declare political asylum, they said.

“Why are you here?” I said.

“Political,” he said.

“Political asylum?” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

It would have been almost impossible for them to come in legally, despite the money they had raised to pay their traffickers, which they said totaled $16,000 a piece. They did not speak good English and an ICE officer, who frequently encounters people smuggled from Bangladesh said the cost is usually $60,000 to smuggle them into the U.S. and the cost was probably “lost in translation” when they spoke to me.

The ICE official noted because they are SIA’s the cost of smuggling them is significantly higher.

“They have been told by the smugglers what to say and how to get around our legal system,” said the ICE officer, on condition that he not be named. “There isn’t a person we don’t take into custody that doesn’t claim asylum. We let them go with an order to report to court. They almost never appear and disappear into our country.”

By no means is the crossing of the Bangladeshi men an aberration, said a Border Patrol official in the McAllen sector, “we see them all the time.”

Bangladeshi Illegal Migration Increased 300 percent from 2017

According to a January, 2019 Homeland Security Report, “DHS Border Patrol Agents routinely encounter SIAs at the border. It was recently reported that, as of September 2018, 630 Bangladeshi nationals have been arrested in Fiscal Year 2018 trying to enter the U.S. illegally in Laredo, Texas alone—a 300 percent increase from FY2017.”

And the issue of Special Interest Aliens is just one of a litany of national security concerns President Donald Trump has addressed in recent weeks as he battles Democrats that refuse to compromise on the $5.7 billion requested by the administration to extend and reinforce the border wall.

The president’s concerns are very real, say DHS and other law enforcement officials, who spoke to this reporter. The roughly 1500 SIA’s apprehended in 2018  “highlight the very real threat we face in determining who is entering the country,” a senior Federal Law Enforcement official said.

In 2017, that number was just over 1200 individuals and in 2016, approximately 1400 SIAs were apprehended, according to DHS statistics.

But for the White House making the case for border security has been a difficult one.

This month, the White House faced a backlash when administration officials misconstrued the number stating that nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists “that came across our southern border” in 2018 were apprehended by Border Patrol. Those numbers were from 2017, and conflated with the number of terrorists stopped at airports all across the globe , as well as the border.

It didn’t take Democrats long to conflate their own statements, and accuse the White House of exaggerating a crisis they said does not exist. Democrats pushed the narrative that the majority of illegal migrants are innocent Central American’s fleeing desperate dangerous situations. They failed to tell the American people what they know as well, that the porous border presents a clear danger to national security.

“It’s a serious crisis, whether the numbers are mixed up or not, 1500 SIAs is alarming, when you consider all the people we didn’t apprehend,” added the senior Federal law enforcement official. “It gets worse by the minute because we refuse to fix our broken immigration system.”

A January 2019, report from the House Homeland Security Staff referenced the crisis, stating that tens of thousands of SIAs have traveled from their nation of origin through South America, Central America and Mexico attempting to gain entry into the United States.

“On a recent Committee staff delegation trip to Latin America, Panamanian officials communicated to Committee staff that tens of thousands of SIAs have entered Panama since 2014. Colombian officials communicated similar numbers to Committee staff, stating that hundreds of SIAs have entered Colombia each year for the past few years. In both countries, nearly all the SIA migrants were headed to the United States and originated from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa—including Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Bangladesh, India, Eritrea, and many others. Additionally, encounters with these special interest individuals resulted in the seizure of tens of thousands of fraudulent documents—including passports and visas—that facilitated travel from their countries of origin through the Americas.”

Trafficking Illegal Immigrants From Countries associated with Terrorism

The man from Bangladesh who spoke a little English, said his name was Pream, to the best of my understanding. He attempted to explain to me the route he took to arrive in McAllen, Texas. He said, he and his companion, had traveled from Bangladesh by plane to Dubai. After reaching Dubai, they eventually made their way to Brazil. There are significantly less travel restrictions in Brazil for those traveling from abroad, ICE officials told me.

“Brazil is a main first hub for people traveling from overseas who are attempting to enter the United States illegally,” said a federal law enforcement official, with direct knowledge of the issue. “Once they are in Brazil, many SIAs make their way to Panama and then through Central America, Mexico and final destination the United States.”

As stated in the Homeland Security report, many of the SIAs go through Panama or Columbia before being trafficked through Central America. And a long standing agreement with Panama to help track those attempting to travel to the U.S. illegally has helped identify and stop some dangerous illegal migrants from making their way to the U.S., a U.S. government official said.

The Panamanian government tracks SIAs through a Biometric records system. Foreigners entering Panama are put into the system, which is located throughout various checkpoints in the country. That system has resulted in the enrollment of 33,000 individuals, mainly traveling to the U.S. illegally, from Fiscal Year 2011 to Fiscal Year 2018. Of those individuals recorded, 25,000 have been deemed Special Interest Aliens and roughly 8,000 have had a criminal history.

More importantly, 60 individuals that Panamanian authorities have registered since 2011 in the Biometric system “were known or suspected terrorists,” the U.S. government official added.

“These are the ones we catch,” the government source said. “What about the hundreds or thousands of SIAs that slip through the cracks and what about those tied to terrorism?”

In fact, there are no real metrics to gauge how many illegal immigrants make their way into the United States without being detected and more importantly where they are from, the official added.

THE ILLEGAL ALIENS KNOW OUR SYSTEM

The area along the Rio Grande Valley River is desolate. Some old abandoned houses, a trailer and a smoke stack are all that’s left of the Texans that used to call this area home.

But it has long been used for illicit trafficking. Since the 1800s criminal organizations moved contraband and people on the same road taken by the two Bangladeshi men, who arrived just a day before President Trump made his visit to McAllen, Texas.

On Thursday, after the president left back to Washington D.C. I headed back down to the border where I had my encounter with the men.

It was dark and I could barely see in front of me. Only twenty minutes after arriving a group of eight illegal immigrants with small flashlights made their way down the very same dirt road. There were two children with them, a woman and several men.

This group was actually looking for Border Patrol agents to turn themselves in. When I asked them why they were coming they said in Spanish what the Bangladeshi men said in English, “asylum.”

“Asylum from what?” I asked, in Spanish.

“From the gangs,” they said.

That night more than 240 illegal immigrants were apprehended by Border Patrol crossing illegally into the Rio Grande Valley.

Without fail, said one Border Patrol agent working that sector, they all had the same story “we are seeking asylum.”

“It’s a dangerous situation,” the agent added. “One of these days, our government is going to regret doing nothing but by then it might be too late for some people. Even now, sometimes it feels like it already is.”