WASHINGTON — Since January, agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection have arrested two men on the FBI's terrorism watchlist as they tried to cross the southern U.S. border, the agency said Monday.
The men, ages 33 and 26, who were from Yemen, were apprehended in the El Centro, California, sector. They are also on the no-fly list that bars certain people from boarding airplanes because of their potential threat to national security.
CBP said it does not release overall numbers of immigrants stopped at the southern border whose names were on the FBI's terrorism watchlist or the country's no-fly list, and it did not provide the number of people who were encountered over the past year, but it said the incidents are "very uncommon."
"While encounters of known and suspected terrorists at our borders are very uncommon, they underscore the importance of the critical work our agents carry out on a daily basis to vet all individuals encountered at our borders," an agency spokesperson said.
Data obtained by NBC News showed that in the first half of fiscal year 2018, six migrants on the terrorism watchlist were apprehended trying to cross the southern border illegally. The number had been inflated by the Trump administration, which claimed that 4,000 known or suspected terrorists tried to cross the border that year.
The Yemeni men were arrested Jan. 29 and March 30. Both have been detained, one in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody and the other in federal custody pending deportation. The agency did not provide the men's names or say why they are on the terrorism watchlist.