EXCLUSIVE: House Republicans are sounding the alarm over a reported move by Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro to empty prisons of violent criminals and send them to the U.S. southern border — with Republicans warning that such a move could put the U.S. “in grave danger.”
“We write you with serious concern about a recent U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intelligence report received by Border Patrol that instructs agents to look for violent criminals from Venezuela among the migrant caravans heading towards the U.S.-Mexico border,” the letter by 14 House Republicans, led by Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas.
Breitbart News reported last week that the DHS intelligence report warned that prisoners freed by the regime were seen within migrant caravans traveling to the U.S. from Mexico as recently as July.
The report is said to have described it as common knowledge among migrants that many of the Venezuelan migrants were convicts and included hardened criminals. Criminals are said to include those convicted of rape, murder and extortion. A source told the outlet that without effective diplomatic relations with Venezuela, identifying Venezuelans with criminal records is nearly impossible.
The report comes as the U.S. has seen an increase of Venezuelans coming to the U.S. border, along with Nicaraguans and Cubans. The letter notes that there have been over 130,000 encounters with Venezuelan migrants between Oct. 2021 and July 2022.
In August, there were 55,333 unique encounters from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, a 175% increase over last year. Venezuelan migrants are harder to remove both due to lack of diplomatic relations with the country and also the related human rights concerns of returning migrants to authoritarian regimes.
“As a result of the Biden administration’s disastrous border policies, it is unknown how many of the violent Venezuelan prisoners have been released into the interior of the U.S., as identifying Venezuelans with criminal records is nearly impossible unless the individual admits their records to U.S. authorities,” the lawmakers say in the letter, obtained by Fox News Digital. “This will undoubtedly put our country in grave danger.”
The lawmakers request a headcount of how many released prisoners have been encountered or are expected to enter the U.S. and the precautions DHS is taking to prevent criminals from entering, as well as its access to criminal databases. They also request copies of related field intelligence reports from that last six months on the matter.
“This bombshell report confirms what we’ve known for years. Our adversaries despise what America stands for and take pride in emptying their prisons filled with the most violent and sick individuals to walk the earth and send them to our southern border, where they know they’ll have no trouble getting in.,” Nehls said in a statement. “Our overworked Border Patrol agents can only do so much when President Biden gives everyone a no strings attached invitation into this country.”
The report has also raised concerns from Rep. August Pfluger, ranking member of the House Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Intelligence & Counterterrorism, who has also written to Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas on the matter. He cited the report in the context of 78 individuals encountered this fiscal year by Border Patrol whose names appear on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) and blamed the administration policies for “encouraging Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) and Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) to take advantage of our vulnerable southern border.”
As an example of a failing of national intelligence, Pfluger cited the release of a Colombian national in April into the U.S., only for him to be flagged on the terror watch list after he was released. It took him authorities two weeks to rearrest him.
“This gap in security and intelligence underscores the lack of visibility the Department of Homeland Security likely has into how many individuals present within the TSDS have been permitted to enter the country under the Biden administration’s watch,” Pfluger wrote in the letter obtained by Fox News Digital
“The number of Venezuelan migrants encountered by [CBP] has increased nearly 3,000 percent from fiscal year 2020 to fiscal year 2022,” he said. “Given the reports of the deliberate, nefarious actions of the illegitimate Maduro regime, it is more important than ever that CBP has the tools and capabilities in place to identify foreign violent criminals, affiliates of FTOs, and affiliates of TCOs.”
Pfluger asks for data on Venezuelan migrants who have matched on the terror watchlist, while also asking why the report and the issue were not previously brought to the attention of the House Homeland Security Committee. He also requests a committed briefing regarding the report and action DHS, the State Department and the intelligence community are taking to combat such a threat.
Adam Shaw is a politics reporter for Fox News Digital, with a focus on immigration. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AdamShawNY
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