U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California sent a strongly worded letter to the Department of Homeland Security inquiring about two Pakistani men found to have ties to terrorist groups that were detained by Customs and Border Protection as they tried to enter San Diego from Tijuana, Mexico.
The two men, Muhammad Azeem and Muktar Ahmad, both surrendered to U.S. Border Patrol agents in September. Hunter notes in his letter that one was listed on the Terrorist Screening Database for "associations with a known or suspected terrorist and the other was "a positive match for derogatory information in an alternative database."
The Pakistanis were part of a group of several dozen Pakistani and Afghan men who attempted to enter the U.S. in September and described as being "military age and carrying U.S. cash."
Hunter said in a statement that he was surprised the case did not receive more attention. He said people across the country need to know that terrorists are trying to cross the southern border.
“It’s still understood around the world that the best way to enter the U.S. illegally is to walk across the U.S. land border, especially if there’s derogatory information on someone to begin with,” Hunter said to Fox News Latino.
Both Azeem and Ahmad remain in ICE custody, spokeswoman Lauren Mack confirmed to the San Diego Reader reported.
In his letter to the DHS, Hunter expressed concern that what he sees as a threat to national security is not being taken seriously.
"It is routinely said that there is no ‘specific and credible information about an attack on the homeland,’" Hunter wrote. "Despite this assertion, the Southern land border remains vulnerable to intrusion and exists as a point of extreme vulnerability. And evidently there are criminal organizations and individuals with the networks and knowhow to facilitate illegal entry into the United States without regard for one’s intentions or status on a terrorist watchlist."
In 2013, The CBP detained fewer than 400 Pakistanis throughout the entire United States — at the ports of entry, airports, and along the border between ports. Between October 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2015, the San Diego sector of the Border Patrol detained 18 Pakistanis and 1 Afghan.
Border Patrol officials say it is rare to see migrants from Pakistan and Afghanistan using the southern border to enter the U.S. illegally. But the numbers are climbing.
"We have detained more Pakistanis and Afghans in the first month of this fiscal year than we did all last year," Border patrol assistant chief Richard Smith said.
One concern for U.S. officials, especially in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, is ascertaining the true identities of the men who are detained at the border.
"The challenge of getting these individuals is getting who they actually are confirmed — proving identity is difficult in that environment," Stratfor vice president of intelligence Fred Burton said. "Afghanistan and Pakistan do not have a robust identification system — these are places where there is tremendous potential for official document and visa fraud."