EXCLUSIVE: House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday requested a classified briefing from the FBI and CIA for congressional leadership and Vice President Harris about suspected terrorists apprehended at the U.S. Southern Border, sounding the alarm about "the number of bad actors" that have escaped arrest and could currently be residing in the United States.
This week, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that two Yemeni men had been apprehended and identified on a terror watch list in the El Centro Sector in California in the last two months. The first arrest, in January, involved a 33-year-old illegal Yemeni who was on both the FBI’s Terrorism Watch List and a No-Fly List.
The second occurred last week in the same sector. The 26-year-old was also on both lists. The first was handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) while the second was being held in federal custody."
In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director William Burns, exclusively obtained by Fox News, McCarthy, R-Calif., requested a "classified briefing regarding certain individuals apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol" for himself, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as Vice President Harris, citing her recent appointment to lead the Biden administration's efforts on the border crisis.
"I hope she, along with Congressional leaders, could benefit from this briefing," McCarthy wrote.
"Through conversations with the Border Patrol and media reports, I have learned of the apprehension of foreign nationals on the Terrorism Watch List who were attempting to illegally cross our southern border," McCarthy wrote. "This highlights the ongoing national security risk posed by the border crisis."
Last month, McCarthy and a Republican delegation traveled to El Paso, Texas to see the "humanitarian and security crisis that has emerged" along the southern border "firsthand."
"The agents of the U.S. Border Patrol provided us with an eye-opening tour and briefings regarding the current crisis in El Paso and the operational challenges they face each day," McCarthy wrote.
McCarthy went on to add that "during the briefings, the agents conveyed to us that they have apprehended individuals from not only Mexico and Central America, but also countries including China, Iran, Yemen, and Turkey."
McCarthy said officials "conveyed that they had apprehended individuals who are on the Terrorism Watch List."
"These revelations were shocking and concerning, and for those reasons, I felt compelled to share them with the nation," he continued.
McCarthy said that when he shared his concerns, his colleagues in Washington "cast doubt" on them with one "even accusing me of lying."
"However, shortly thereafter, staff from U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed the accuracy of my comments and further reporting provided greater insight into the situation," McCarthy said. "In fact, the threat has only grown."
"Just yesterday, in a now-deleted, publicly-released statement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced the arrest of two Yemeni individuals caught illegally crossing the border in the Border Patrol’s El Centro sector, hundreds of miles from El Paso," McCarthy wrote. "Like the cases we were briefed on in El Paso, these El Centro suspects were on the Terrorism Watch List."
CBP issued a press release on the apprehensions this week, but has since deleted it, and its accompanying tweet.
"Part of the Border Patrol’s mission states we will protect the country from terrorists," said Chief Patrol Agent Gregory K. Bovino in the now-deleted press release. "Today, like every other day, our agents did that. These apprehensions at our border illustrates the importance of our mission and how we can never stop being vigilant in our everyday mission to protect this great country."
CBP and DHS did not immediately respond to requests from Fox News about the deletion of the press release, as well as an accompanying tweet.
Meanwhile, McCarthy said that "approximately 1,000 people each day are evading capture by the U.S. Border Patrol," citing reporting from the Washington Post.
"While I am grateful to the Border Patrol for doing all they can, I have great concern about the number of bad actors that have escaped arrest and are residing in the United States," McCarthy wrote. "We simply have no way of knowing if other terrorists have crossed the border undetected."
Fox News reported last month that at least four foreign nationals -- including the Yemeni man arrested in January -- whose names match those on the terror watch list, had been picked up by Border Patrol trying to enter the country illegally since October.
A CBP spokesperson told Fox in a statement at that time that security efforts at the border "are layered and include multiple levels of rigorous screening that allow us to detect and prevent people who pose national security or public safety risks from entering the United States."
"DHS works with our international partners to share intelligence and other information, including to prevent individuals on the terrorist watchlist from entering the United States. CBP adjudicates individuals encountered at and between our ports of entry against several classified and unclassified databases to determine if they pose a threat to national security, consistent with the law," the spokesperson said. "While encounters of known and suspected terrorists at our borders are very uncommon, they underscore the importance of the critical work our agents carry out on a daily basis to vet all individuals encountered at our borders."
The White House on Tuesday said that such apprehensions were "uncommon" and a sign that officials were doing their jobs.
"They do underscore the importance of the critical work that is done on a daily basis to vet those at the border. DHS works, not just at the border as you know, but also with international partners to share intelligence and other information including to prevent individuals on certain watchlist from entering the United States," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. "They adjudicate individuals encountered at and between ports of entry against several classified and unclassified databases."
She added: "So while this is rare, this is a reflection of them doing their jobs."
McCarthy’s request and the confirmation of the apprehensions comes as the Biden Administration is grappling with a migrant surge at the U.S. southern border.
The Biden Administration has cast the situation as a "challenge," and blamed the Trump administration for its immigration policy.
But initial CBP numbers for last month indicate that the agency is on track to have encountered more than 171,000 migrants in March—a 15 year high.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.