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DHS is trying to close the border loophole that has allowed migrants to be released into the U.S. in connection with terrorism

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

The policy change follows an April 11 NBC News story that showed an Afghan migrant on the terrorist watch list was released on bail by a Texas immigration judge after Immigration and Customs Enforcement prosecutors withheld information about a possible link to terrorism because the evidence was classified had been held. . Instead of arguing that the man posed a threat to national security, prosecutors argued that he posed a flight risk, according to two sources familiar with the case.

Mohammad Kharwin, 48, was caught crossing the border in 2023 but released because the Border Patrol had no biometric information linking him to the terror watch list. He lived in the US for over a year before being arrested by ICE in early 2024. When evidence of his possible ties to terror was not presented to the judge, he was released again pending an asylum hearing scheduled for 2025, officials said.

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Within hours of the NBC News report, the man was arrested again in San Antonio.

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

Under the old policy, asylum officers making an initial decision on an immigrant’s eligibility to make an asylum claim, and prosecutors submitting a case for deportation to immigration court, had to get approval from the DHS secretary to share classified information .

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

Two DHS officials told NBC News that the administration is determining whether it should build more space and get security clearances so more employees can store, print and share the classified information.

The officials did not comment on whether the NBC News report played a role in prompting the change in classified information policy, but said global migration trends necessitated a review. The officials said the memo is one of the results of a three-year study into how immigration policies should evolve to mitigate terrorist threats.

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

“We have seen that the terrorist threat landscape has become much more complex in recent years than it was just after September 11,” the official said.

Kharwin is on the FBI’s National Terrorist Watch List, which includes the names of 1.8 million people considered potential security risks. The database shows that he is a member of Hezb-e-Islami, or HIG, a political and paramilitary organization that has been designated a terrorist organization by the US.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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