The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is searching for 50 illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. by an ISIS-affiliated smuggling network, officials told media outlets last week.

In light of this latest border-related safety crisis, it’s more important than ever for families to educate themselves on illegal immigration and the human cost of porous national boundaries.

Background

The FBI reportedly began investigating the network last August after discovering one of the smugglers’ ties to the infamous terror group, ISIS.

At the time, investigators claimed the group had smuggled “more than a dozen” Uzbek migrants into the U.S. in 2023. Unaware of the potential terrorist threat, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) released them into the interior to await immigration trial.

In March 2024, FBI Director Christopher Wray mentioned the smuggling ring during a Senate Intelligence Committee meeting:

I want to be a little bit careful how far I can go in open session, but there is a particular network where some of the overseas facilitators … have ISIS ties that we’re very concerned about and that we’ve been spending an enormous amount of effort with our partners investigating.

Declining to speculate on the group’s purpose, he continued:

Exactly what that network is up to is something that’s, again, the subject of our investigation.
The Issue

The size and scope of the smuggling network is significantly greater than initially reported — as are its reported connections to ISIS.

DHS credits the smuggling group with bringing more than 400 people into the U.S. since 2021 – more than 25-times as many as initially reported — from countries across Central Asia.

In 2023, investigators claimed only one of the smugglers had ties to terrorism. “The ISIS-linked smuggler is not believed to be a member of the terror group, but more like an independent contractor who has personal sympathies with the organization” CNN paraphrased government sources.

Now, agents suggest multiple smugglers may be members of ISIS. A U.S. official told NBC last week, “It is not known whether the human smuggling activity directly funds ISIS activity or whether ISIS member are making personal money through human smuggling on the side.”

Perhaps that’s why DHS classifies all 400 illegal arrivals associated with the group “subjects of concern”— despite government spokespeople denying any active terror threat.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has already arrested more than 150 of the 400 smuggled in. An unknown number of this group have already been deported, according to NBC. An additional 200 are under surveillance in 17 unnamed states.

The remaining 50 are in the wind. ICE hopes to arrest them on charges of illegal immigration.

ISIS-K

Officials are reportedly concerned about smuggler’s ties to Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) — a scion of the larger terror group.

Named for the region that used to include parts of Iran, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, the sect infamously bombed the Kabul airport in 2021, killing 13 U.S. soldiers helping America withdraw from Afghanistan.

ISIS-K is active in the same Central Asian countries as the smuggling ring, including Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. In March, the group took credit for shooting 144 people in a Russian concert hall.

Importantly, ICE has arrested at least nine other illegal immigrants from Central Asia with ties to ISIS this year.

In April, agents arrested 33-year-old Jovokhir Attoev. CBP released the Uzbek after he crossed the border illegally in 2022. Law enforcement only learned Attoev posed a threat when Uzbekistan released an international “wanted” notice divulging his connection to ISIS.

In June, ICE arrested eight men from Tajikistan with ties to the terror group — at least two of which had been in the country for at least a year. All eight had passed CBP background checks and settled in New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

The Big Picture

Like the nine men connected to ISIS, almost all 400 of the people trafficked into the U.S. by the suspicious smuggling network were “caught” by CBP agents before being “released” into the U.S. to await trial.

According to NBC, CBP agents “did not have information raising concerns at the time because [the arrivals] were not on the government’s terrorism watchlist.”

This is a major problem — and an increasingly common one.

Retired ICE field director, and board member for the National Immigration Center for Enforcement, John Fabbricatore commented on the effectiveness of CBP background checks in January, after federal agents arrested an illegal immigrant and confirmed terrorist in Minneapolis.

The unnamed man reportedly didn’t register as a threat until the Terrorist Screening Center “‘made a redetermination’ that the individual was ‘a confirmed member of [the Somali terror group] al-Shabaab,’” the Daily Caller reported — almost a year after CBP released him into the U.S..

“Many within the [White House] have repeatedly assured us that the vetting process at the border is comprehensive and complete,” Fabbricatore told the Caller. “However, we continue to witness alarming instances where terrorists are able to freely roam the United States for months after being released at the border before their criminal and terrorist histories come to light.”

He isn’t alone.

A recent report from the DHS Office of Inspector General reads, “The Department of Homeland Security’s technology, procedures, and coordination were not fully effective to screen and vet non-citizens applying for admission into the United States.”

Part of the problem, according to border agents cited by NBC, is the number of illegal immigrants arriving from countries that don’t share intelligence with the U.S. — including the area in which ISIS-K operates.

Without timely criminal data from illegal immigrants’ home countries, CBP can’t know whether someone is a threat to American security. Any background check performed with American data on people who have never set foot in America is essentially meaningless.

Why It Matters

For better or worse, immigration policy is a major part of American society and politics.

Parents will inevitably vote on these issues. Kids will learn about them in school and ask questions around the dinner table.

Many families will meet good people who are nevertheless in the country illegally. A woefully high number of families will lose a child or sibling to crimes committed by illegal immigrants.

At its most nuanced, immigration is a thorny topic in which sinful humans debate how to compassionately admit those looking to improve American society, and repel those seeking to destroy it.

Right now, however, parents and citizens should be asking themselves more basic questions about safety.

America’s relatively lax border policies most benefit people seeking to harm others — cartels and other networks profiting off human trafficking, criminals escaping justice in their own country, gang members looking to profit from the drug trade and terrorists who believe America should be eliminated.

Legal immigrants, Americans and those earnestly seeking asylum are falling by the wayside — and getting hurt in the process.

Use common sense to keep yourself and your family physically safe. Do your own research, prayerfully consider the human cost of a dysfunctional border and vote for policies and representatives that enable law enforcement to better protect your family, community and country.

Additional Articles and Resources

Illegal Immigrant Arrested in Murder of Maryland Mom

Debate Over Immigration Labels Obscures Seriousness of Laken Riley’s Death

Illegal Immigrant to Appear in Court for Death of Texas Teen, Illustrates Violent Trend

Fentanyl Overdoses Rise, Connection to Illegal Immigration

Talking to Your Kids About Illegal Immigration

Familial DNA Testing on the Southern Border Shouldn’t Have Ended

The Border Crisis and the Deafening Silence of Women’s Groups