Two groups of mostly Pakistani — and several Afghan — men were detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents in western San Diego County in October, Border Patrol officials have confirmed.
The first group — 11 men described by a witness as "military age and carrying U.S. cash” — crossed the border illegally and sought out patrol agents in order to surrender, according to reports.
Days later, a second group of 6 men entered the country at the same place and also sought federal agents to whom they could surrender.
Pakistanis crossing the border illegally in the San Diego sector is pretty unusual, according to Border Patrol statistics. In 2013, the most recent year with official statistics, fewer than 400 Pakistanis were detained throughout the entire U.S. by Customs and Border Protection, which includes airports, ports of entry (Customs), and the border between the ports.
"We have detained more Pakistanis and Afghans in the first month of this fiscal year than we did all last year," assistant chief Richard Smith confirmed.
Between October 1, 2014, and August 30, 2015, the San Diego sector detained 18 Pakistanis and 1 Afghan, he said. In the 30 days since October 1, 2015, the same area saw the capture of 2 Afghans and 22 Pakistanis, Smith said. This reporter was aware of only 17 and was unable to get more information about the other 7 who entered the country illegally in October.
Customs and Border Protection was aware of the second group's arrival in Mexico as a result of better cross-border information sharing, sources said.
The Border Patrol detained the men and ran background checks on a half dozen national and international databases before turning them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which makes the decisions on who can stay and who must leave.
ICE spokeswoman Lauren Mack said she is unable to provide information on the 17 Pakistanis and Afghans without knowing their names. Generally speaking, ICE can set administrative court dates for those seeking asylum or requesting an immigration hearing; the agency can also choose to deport detainees it deems not eligible for hearings. People can be detained until those court dates or released with a court date that serves as an identity document while they are released.
Mack was unable to say whether the 17 Pakistani and Afghan men were detained or released.
Fred Burton, vice president of intelligence for international intelligence company Stratfor Forecasting, Inc., and a former State Department counterterrorism expert, said that such arrivals are not unusual in Texas, where the company headquarters is sited.
Texas governor Greg Abbott today refused to accept any Syrian refugees in the wake of the attacks in Paris.
"The challenge of getting these individuals is getting who they actually are confirmed — proving identity is difficult in that environment," Abbott said. "Afghanistan and Pakistan do not have a robust identification system — these are places where there is tremendous potential for official document and visa fraud…. Are they trying to escape Afghanistan and Pakistan or are they here for other purposes? is the question," he added.
That the 17 men were carrying cash raises questions, Burton said. Traffickers and bandits at crossing points are notorious for stripping travelers of their cash and valuables, he said.
”The U.S. dollar is the universal currency of human trafficking," he explained. "But that they arrived still in possession of cash suggests they shortened the human-trafficking channel so they still have it when they arrive."