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Eight Syrians surrender to U.S. at Mexico border

by SETH ROBBINS and ALICIA A. CALDWELL The Associated Press | November 20, 2015 at 3:16 a.m. | Updated November 20, 2015 at 3:16 a.m.

SAN ANTONIO -- Eight Syrian turned themselves in to immigration authorities along the U.S.-Mexico border this week, officials said Thursday.

Two families -- two men, two women and four children -- presented themselves Tuesday at the port of entry of the South Texas city of Laredo, the Department of Homeland Security said in a release. The men were taken to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Pearsall, and the women and children to one in Dilley.

One day earlier, five Pakistanis and one Afghan were caught near the Arizona border.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who along with several other governors across the country recently urged President Barack Obama to suspend entrance for Syrian refugees after last week's deadly attacks in Paris, tweeted a link Wednesday night to the conservative Breitbart News Network website, which reported that Syrians had been "caught" at the border.

"THIS is why Texas is vigilant about Syrian refugees," the Texas governor wrote.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump followed suit Thursday with a tweet of his own: "ISIS, Maybe? I told you so. WE NEED A BIG & BEAUTIFUL WALL."

Meanwhile, authorities said four of five Syrians detained this week in Honduras were students and had stolen Greek passports. They all said they were fleeing their country in hopes of refuge in the United States.

Police spokesman Anibal Baca told BLU Radio of Colombia that the fifth Syrian is a professional worker, and all five will appear before a judge on charges of falsifying documents.

The men were detained Tuesday at the airport in the capital of Tegucigalpa by agents acting on an alert from Interpol about the passports.

Honduran authorities have not turned up any criminal history for the Syrians, and there has been no indication that they are suspected of anything except carrying stolen documents.

Baca said the men had intended to fly to the northwestern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula and then travel overland to the United States.

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled Syria to escape the civil war, most of them to Europe. Between 2004 and 2013, some 1,449 Syrians were granted asylum in the United States, most in 2012 and 2013, and were not part of the 70,000 refugees from around the world that the U.S. accepts annually.

President Barack Obama's administration announced earlier this year that the number of people invited to the U.S. as refugees would be increased to 85,000 in the coming year, including about 10,000 Syrians. That program is now under scrutiny, and the U.S. House overwhelmingly approved GOP-backed legislation on Thursday that puts up new hurdles for Syrian and Iraqi refugees trying to come to the U.S.

More than 145,000 people from countries other than Mexico were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border during the 2015 federal budget year that ended Sept. 30. The overwhelming majority was from Central America, though five were from Syria. Border Patrol agents apprehended 14 Syrians in federal fiscal 2014.

The Syrians turned themselves over to authorities in Texas one day after the Border Patrol in Arizona caught five Pakistanis and an Afghan trying to sneak into the country. The six were apprehended along with two smugglers accompanying the group near the Arizona town of Sonoita.

The Border Patrol said in a statement that it "checked their identities against numerous law enforcement and national security related databases" and found no "derogatory information" about the individuals. They remain in federal custody.

Information for this article was contributed by Josh Hoffner, Paul J. Weber and E. Eduardo Castillo of The Associated Press.

A Section on 11/20/2015

Print Headline: Eight Syrians surrender to U.S. at Mexico border


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