The Biden administration is trying to close a border loophole that has released terrorism-linked migrants into the United States

The Biden administration is giving immigration judges and asylum officers greater access to classified information to help them determine which migrants might have ties to terrorism or pose a threat to public safety.

The policy change follows an April 11 NBC News report revealing that an Afghan migrant on the terrorist watch list was released on bond by a Texas immigration judge after immigration prosecutors and customs withheld information about a possible link to terrorism because the evidence was classified. . Instead of arguing that the man posed a national security risk, prosecutors argued that he posed a flight risk, two sources familiar with the case said.

Mohammad Kharwin, 48, was arrested crossing the border in 2023 but released because the Border Patrol did not have biometric information linking him to the terrorism watch list. He lived in the United States for over a year before being arrested by ICE in early 2024. When evidence of his potential ties to terrorism was not presented to the judge, he was released again while awaiting an asylum hearing scheduled for 2025, in the United States. » officials said.

Hours after the NBC News report, the man was arrested again in San Antonio.

The new policy, announced in a May 9 memo from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, reverses a 2004 directive that classified information could only be used in immigration proceedings “as a last resort.” .

Under the old policy, asylum officers who initially determined an immigrant’s eligibility to pursue an asylum case and prosecutors presenting a deportation case in immigration court were required to obtain the approval from the Secretary of DHS to share classified information.

The new memo directs these employees to go to the head of their individual agency, such as ICE or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, for approval.

Two DHS officials told NBC News that the administration is determining whether it will need to build more space and obtain security clearances to allow more employees to store, print and share documents. classified information.

Officials did not say whether the NBC News report played a role in the policy change on classified information, but said global migration trends required review. Officials said the memo is one outcome of a three-year review of how immigration policies should evolve to mitigate terrorist threats.

“Over the past five years, we have seen a significant shift in the way transnational criminal organizations are increasingly involved in the movement of people in our hemisphere, and particularly in the Eastern Hemisphere,” said the one of the DHS officials.

“We have seen the terrorist threat landscape become much more complex in recent years than it was immediately after 9/11,” the official said.

Kharwin is on the national terrorist watch list maintained by the FBI, which includes the names of 1.8 million people considered potential security risks. The database indicates that he is a member of Hezb-e-Islami, or HIG, a political and paramilitary organization that the United States has designated a terrorist organization.

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