A whistleblower within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says gang members who are on a whole of government watchlist for violent crimes, including sex trafficking and crimes against minors, are exploiting a policy loophole to erase their names from the blacklist and gain entry to the U.S. through an asylum process while also seeking guardianship of orphaned migrants.
In an Aug. 24 interview with independent investigative journalist team Project Veritas, an anonymous DHS insider told the organization a major loophole is being exploited around members of what are classified as Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO).
The whistleblower says individual members of TCOs are placed on a watchlist that contains “certain specific information” regarding their persons and their activities, such as name, birth date, biometrics, and photographs, including shared intelligence from foreign governments.
They said the watchlist is not specific to the DOJ or DHS, but is a “whole of government” system.
However, according to the insider, the TCO watchlist inexplicably has a ceiling for the number of entries that can be placed on it, which is below 50,000.
The interview revolved around the example of one of nine different gang members discovered through the insider’s internal investigations, a young man from El Salvador.
In documents provided to Project Veritas, including photographs, screenshots, database entries, and internal government bulletins, the whistleblower showed an internal callout to the DHS from the FBI, stating the Bureau had received notification in April from the Department of Health and Human Services that the man, a member of a TCO, the 18th Street Gang, was identified through his fingerprints as having applied to sponsor an Unaccompanied Alien Child (UAC).
The bulletin noted the 18th Street Gang was involved in “serious transnational criminal activities,” which were elaborated to include “kidnapping, human smuggling, sex trafficking,” in addition to “blackmail, extortion, and immigration offenses.”
The whistleblower explained to viewers that the 18th Street Gang is “the equivalent of what you know as MS-13,” describing the gang further as an entity that operates through the Northern Triangle and also within the United States.
The insider displayed documents showing at least nine different current or former TCO watchlist members were applying to sponsor a UAC. At least three were clearly demarcated in government files as having committed a crime against a minor. One of the men had 37 crimes on file, 27 of which were committed against children.
In explaining how the migrant process works, the whistleblower said, “When you come across illegally, you have no status and you are what’s called ‘Entry Without Inspection.’ At that point in time, you’re basically always put into what’s called a deportation process.”
It was noted migrants in the deportation process undergo a legal process and are not immediately removed from the country. They continued, “If in that time you inform the U.S. Government that you have some type of fear that your life is in jeopardy, or you’ll be persecuted, or you may be tortured,” they said, then the asylum seeker would be removed from Entry Without Inspection status and be granted what is called “Reasonable Fear” status.
They said once a TCO member is granted Reasonable Fear status, they are also removed from the TCO watchlist.
Once a migrant is marked as Reasonable Fear, the insider says they are no longer subject to proceedings before an immigration judge. Instead, they are interviewed by an asylum officer, who “make[s] the determination based on basically what’s provided from the alien to the asylum officer.”
When asked whether or not it may be true that the TCO members’ lives may be in danger, the whistleblower responded in the negative, “These are the people that are causing danger in those foreign countries. That’s why they’re on the actual Transnational Organized Crime watchlist.”
The insider also revealed that once given Reasonable Fear classification, the formerly blacklisted asylum seekers are now able to file for an Employment Authorization Card, described as “essentially…a work permit,” because they are legally permitted to remain in the country while due process unfolds, which may take years to resolve.
According to documentation displayed in the video, this specific 18th Street Gang member had been in the process of being deported since at least 2014 when his status was changed to Reasonable Fear by an immigration judge.
The man was granted an Employment Authorization Card in 2019 before applying for guardianship of a migrant child in April.
The whistleblower noted that many of the gang members exploiting the Reasonable Fear loophole do not show up for court dates or asylum interviews.
“If an illegal alien who we know has committed crimes and we know is bad enough to be placed on a watchlist is able to simply tell an asylum officer ‘My life is in fear’ with no more information…if that can override an entire whole of government approach to identifying these people in the first place, that’s the giant loophole,” said the insider.
Conscience as the foundation for courage
The insider said he went to Project Veritas because, “If I was to go to the Inspector General, nothing would happen over a period of a much longer time frame. If I was to go to the agencies of Homeland Security or Department of Justice, they’re already receiving the information anyways.”
“And if I was to go to any other media organization, like Washington Post, or CNN, they’re just mouthpieces for the Administration.”
Project Veritas front man, James O’Keefe, who conducted the interview, told the whistleblower PV has several DHS employees who are “on the fence” about stepping forward, held back by fear. The whistleblower replied, “I say there’s no reason to be scared. If you’re scared, then I mean, that’s on you, I guess.”
“But I don’t understand that part. If something is…if something is bad, we have found eight people trying to get kids…I’m not scared enough to not call that out.”
They continued, “These are just people on the watchlist. How many people have been removed from the watchlist that are trying to do the same thing?”
For the insider, his conscience and sense of responsibility overrode what he stood to lose from stepping forward, “Children are the most vulnerable population of any society, so when you’re sending kids to a place with no family, and the only possible family are these guardians that are known gang members, that’s even more vulnerable.”
“I don’t understand the part where you can worry about yourself more than something that is obviously very bad for either individual people, these kids, or for the rest of the country.”
O’Keefe began to ask the whistleblower about how they may lose their job, to which they interjected immediately, “[Or I] could watch kids get raped and sex trafficked all over. That’s a pretty easy decision.”