Panama has caught 52 people on terrorist watch lists who were en route to the U.S., a Republican congressman said in a new podcast Monday, citing a conversation with Panama’s foreign minister.
Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas was speaking on the Republican National Committee’s “Real America” podcast when he revealed his conversation with the top Panamanian diplomat, who said there are more than 100,000 migrants in her country headed toward the U.S. right now.
Panama screens people it encounters who are making the journey, and Mr. Gonzales said he asked whether anyone on terrorist watch lists had been detected.
“She goes, ‘Funny you ask that Tony because in Panama we do biometrics and we have apprehended 52 people that have been — that are associated with al Qaeda,’” the congressman recalled.
He said he asked her whether Panama had alerted the Biden administration.
“She goes, ‘There’s no one home. I’m here talking to you because the administration is just absent,’” the congressman said.
The issue of terrorists exploiting the southern border amid the current surge of illegal immigrants is one of the most heated debates.
Customs and Border Protection did announce in April that agents had caught two men from Yemen on terrorist watch lists in the previous two months.
The CBP announcement was then scrubbed from the agency’s website. In a statement after the deletion, the agency said the news release “was not properly reviewed” and disclosed national security information that had to be erased.
In the months since lawmakers have demanded to know the actual number of known or suspected terrorists nabbed at the border. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has rebuffed those questions in public but has promised to deliver the answer in a classified setting.
Rodney Scott, who was pushed out by the Biden team as chief of the Border Patrol over the summer, said there is a real terrorist threat at the border.
“They exist, and they want to come across that border, ” he told Fox News earlier this month.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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