Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehended two Lebanese nationals at the southern border in Texas on Thursday, sources tell Fox News.
The two men in their early to mid-20s from Lebanon were apprehended in Eagle Pass, Texas. Sources said they are considered “special interest aliens” and are currently undergoing extensive background vetting, including by the FBI.
“Special interest aliens” are people from countries identified by the U.S. government as having conditions that promote or protect terrorism or potentially pose some sort of national security threat to the U.S.
CBP has also apprehended an Egyptian man in his 40s. Separately. In the Rio Grande Valley Sector, CBP officials have apprehended 19 Iranians and 17 Syrians since Monday.
The apprehensions come amid concerns about security and the potential for terrorism after the terror attacks by Hamas against Israel. Lebanon borders with Israel and is the home of terror group Hezbollah, which, like Hamas, is designated a terror group by the State Department and is also funded by Iran.
Local and federal law enforcement in Washington, D.C., told Fox News Digital on Friday that they are ramping up their presence in the nation’s capital as Hamas’ call for a “Day of Rage” has put American cities on alert. The moves come as large protests are already brewing in the Middle East, with massive crowds turning out in Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq to show support for Palestinians.
The Department of Homeland Security’s threat assessment, published last month, noted that agents have encountered a growing number on the watch list and warned that “terrorists and criminal actors may exploit the elevated flow and increasingly complex security environment to enter the United States.”
“Individuals with terrorism connections are interested in using established travel routes and permissive environments to facilitate access to the United States,” the assessment also said.
Fox News reported this week that thousands of special interest aliens have been arrested by agents while attempting to cross the U.S. southern border illegally over the last two years.
That data, confirmed by multiple CBP sources and reflecting apprehensions between ports of entry between October 2021 and October 2023, showed that agents encountered 164 nationals from Lebanon. They also encountered 6,386 nationals from Afghanistan, 3,153 from Egypt, 659 from Iran and 538 from Syria.
Agents also encountered 13,624 from Uzbekistan, 30,830 from Turkey, 1,613 from Pakistan, 185 from Jordan, 139 from Yemen, 123 from Iraq and 15,594 from Mauritania. The data does not include information on how many of those migrants were removed or released into the U.S. with a court date.
Those numbers do not include encounters by CBP’s Office of Field Operations at ports of entry or those who have evaded agents. Sources say there have been over 1.5 million such “gotaways” during the Biden administration.
Meanwhile, fiscal year 2023 broke the record for encounters on the FBI terror watch list with 151 people encountered at the southern border between ports of entry, higher than the previous six years combined.
Border Patrol sources have told Fox that they have extreme concerns about the people coming across from special interest countries, given they have little to no way to vet them. Unless they have committed a crime in the U.S. or are on a federal watch list, agents have no way of knowing their criminal history, because their countries do not share data with the U.S., so there is nothing to match their name against when authorities run their fingerprints.
The U.S. has been dealing with historic numbers at the southern border. Sources recently told Fox News Digital that there were over 260,000 migrant encounters in September, a new monthly record.
Meanwhile, in the Del Rio Sector, in which the latest apprehensions were made, there were over 10,000 encounters in the last week, and over 1,400 gotaways. Officials say they have apprehended migrants from nearly 100 different countries this fiscal year.
Fox News’ Bill Melugin and Greg Norman contributed to this report.