Federal law enforcement agents have identified almost 30,000 travelers to the U.S. with Middle Eastern names this year alone using Mexican passports. The analysis is part of an internal memo issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and raises concerns of widespread passport fraud.
The Mexican passport holders were flagged by DHS as part of an immigration and travel fraud investigation. DHS said in the memo that it expects to further evaluate the legal status of each person identified in the investigation.
A DHS investigation into passport fraud identified nearly 30k individuals with Middle Eastern name origins traveling this year with Mexican passports, per internal memo obtained by @SaysSimonson https://t.co/al0QxBOJq6
— Brent Scher (@BrentScher) August 31, 2022
A senior DHS official who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon on condition of anonymity said the agency is conducting investigations into passport fraud as agents along the southern border are overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of migrants illegally entering the country each month. The sheer number of people coming across is making the proper vetting of official documents much more difficult.
The DHS official added that the “nexus to Mexico should cause the public and lawmakers to reflect on how a porous border can be even more dangerous.”
Some law enforcement officials fear that terrorist organizations like al Qaeda are taking advantage of the compromised border situation to infiltrate the U.S.
The primary concern is that people who may appear on the terror watch list or are otherwise bad actors use passports that are fraudulently obtained to bypass the limited scrutiny at the border.
The U.S. Travel Association reports that around 20 million Mexican citizens travel across the border as short-term tourists using their passports every year.
The DHS memo indicates that the questionable passports were flagged by the agency’s National Targeting Center. That office is set up to “quickly and quietly” identify potential national security threats and has been in operation since shortly after the September 11 attacks. That office also provides assistance to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in proceedings to deport money launderers and child predators.
The National Targeting Center uses algorithms to pinpoint the likely nationality of individuals based on objective criteria, including their names. Naming conventions in Arabic differ greatly from those in Spanish.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not issue official data on the number of suspected terrorists apprehened at the border because of national security concerns.