Federal authorities in recent months detained two Yemeni men on terror watchlists as they attempted to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.
The two men, whom authorities did not name, crossed the border in the last three months and were apprehended in southwest California. Customs and Border Protection said both men were on a no-fly list and a federal terror watch list.
Gregory K. Bovino, chief patrol agent of the border sector where the men were apprehended, said in a statement that has since been deleted from CBP's website that the arrests highlight how important the mission of securing the border is for the safety of all Americans.
"Part of the Border Patrol's mission states we will protect the country from terrorists," Bovino said, according to an archived copy of the statement. "These apprehensions at our border illustrates the importance of our mission and how we can never stop being vigilant in our everyday mission to protect this great country."
The Biden administration has not said why the statement, as well as a tweet on the arrests from Department of Homeland Security, were deleted. Neither CBP nor DHS responded to requests for comment.
The news of terror suspects trespassing at the border comes weeks after the media downplayed such allegations. In March, a delegation of House Republicans visited the Mexican border during a historic surge beginning at the start of the Biden administration. Republicans told the Washington Free Beacon terrorists had approached the U.S.-Mexican border and endangered national security. Critics in the media, however, rated such claims "dubious" and said the government provided "conflicting" disclosures about the number of suspected terrorists.
Rep. John Katko (R., N.Y.), ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, was part of the delegation of Republicans that visited the border, where, he said, the Biden administration's lax border security policy is "quickly becoming a national emergency."
"When I was at the border a few weeks ago, border patrol agents shared with me a firsthand account of encountering known or suspected terrorists on the terrorism watch list attempting to exploit President Biden’s weak and reckless border security policies," he said. "This is quickly becoming a national emergency with impact well beyond border communities alone."
Katko also said the CBP's deletion of the press release showed a "troubling" lack of transparency from the Biden administration.
"Even worse, in a troubling move, CBP removed the press release from their website disclosing two Yemeni men on the terrorism watch list were apprehended crossing the border into the United States. A word to the wise to the Biden administration: Transparency in name alone is not transparency."
After publication of this story, an agency spokesman said the statement was deleted because it contained "policy information related to national security" and wasn't properly vetted before it was released.
The decision was criticized by officials from the Trump administration, such as former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who called the decision to delete the press release "inexplicable and unacceptable." Former director of national intelligence Richard Grennell said it was an example of political appointees undermining career officials at the border.
"So terrorists crossed the border, career officials announced it and political appointees deleted it," Grennell said in response to the explanation.
Update, April 7, 3 p.m.: This story has been updated to include a CBP spokesman's comments on its deleted statement and comments by former Trump administration officials.