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Afghan on terrorist watchlist arrested at U.S.-Mexico border crossing in San Diego

According to Supervisor Jim Desmond's office, an Afghani on the terror watchlist was arrested in Otay Mesa amid a migrant surge after the end of Title 42.

SAN DIEGO — A person on the U.S. Terror Watchlist was arrested near a U.S.-Mexico border crossing in San Diego as thousands of migrants flocked to the United States seeking asylum ahead of the expiration of Title 42.

In a statement released to local media, Supervisor Desmond confirmed he had heard about the arrest on Wednesday, May 10.

"On Wednesday, I received word from Border Patrol Officials that an Afghani on the terror watchlist was arrested at our Southern Border. This apprehension occurred after the individual crossed the border alongside a group of migrants near Otay Mesa, CA," the statement said.

Rumors of the arrest initially began circulating on social media when Fox News reporter Bill Melugin tweeted that numerous U.S. Customs and Border Protection sources confirmed that agents in the San Diego sector arrested the Afghan national. 

CBS 8 contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigations in San Diego, which could not comment on the inquiry. 

"The FBI has no comment on your specific inquiry. We are vigilant in our efforts to detect and assess possible threats, and we work closely with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to keep our communities safe," a statement from the FBI said.

A source with knowledge of the situation who requested anonymity told CBS 8 that the FBI classified the arrests. 

The identity of the suspected terrorist or what they were wanted for is unknown. The incident comes as thousands of migrants have flocked to the border to seek asylum.

"The lack of having a comprehensive good immigration program, we're creating those masses on the other side of the border by not having an understandable process," Supervisor Desmond said. 

Leading up to and following the expiration of Title 42, CBS 8 has seen families at the border sleeping under tarps and trash bags for days. An immigration attorney says fingerprints and biometrics are typical practices once migrants are picked up by border patrol.

 "If they say they fear returning to their country of origin, then what happens is that immigration sets them apart and gives them a screening for asylum purposes," said Narciso Cruz, an immigration attorney.

"On the one hand we have to recognize people are always going to be trying to come to the United States to do us harm. This didn't happen because of Title 42," said Andrew Rudman, director of the Wilson Center's Mexico Institute. "I think it's important even in the midst of the surge CBP was checking and was able to identify this person and arrest them."

Rudman said this shows the system worked, at least regarding this individual.

With more migrants expected to seek asylum at the border, Supervisor Desmond feels a stronger, more orderly border process is needed.

"It's inhumane to have all those families on the other side of the border in the cold trying to get in on a process they don't understand. A safe, secure, humane immigration process is what we need," he said.

Thousands of migrants journeyed to the southern border of the United States ahead of Title 42, expiring on May 11. Title 42 allowed U.S. officials to turn away migrants who came to the U.S.-Mexico border to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

"As a nation, we must remain steadfast in our commitment to protect the safety and security of our citizens. A strong and orderly border process is crucial in preventing individuals with nefarious intentions from entering our country. The open border policy has allowed fentanyl to pour into our country, asylum seekers to be human trafficked, and terrorists to attempt entry into our country," Supervisor Jim Desmond said.

WATCH RELATED: Title 42 expires | Here's what it has done, and what come next

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