Border Patrol agents caught 16 people on the FBI’s terror watch list trying to illegally cross the U.S. southwest land border between entry ports in April, bringing this fiscal year’s suspected terrorist arrest total up to nearly 100.
Not only is 16 higher than the recorded combined arrest totals from fiscal years 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 but it’s the same as the total number of suspected terrorists apprehended at the southern border in FY 2021. Data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection also suggests that the number of suspected terrorists arrested in April alone was five times the three watch list apprehensions listed for all of FY 2019 and FY 2020.
There are still five months left in the 2023 fiscal year, which means that 2022’s arrest total of 98 people on the watch list, an all-time record for the U.S., will be easily surpassed in the coming months. Already, CBP data says 98 noncitizen watch list members were arrested at American borders in 2023, all but two of whom were caught at the southern border. Reports of more potentially dangerous foreign nationals trying to infiltrate the U.S. in May have also surfaced.
Ever since Biden took office in January 2021, border arrests have skyrocketed. The number of suspected terrorists captured by border agents may be small compared to the 1,734,686 and 2,378,944 illegal border crossers apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in FY 2021 and FY 2022, respectively, but it is important.
Despite the Biden administration and corporate media’s attempts to downplay the ongoing border crisis, internal alarm over the escalating number of terror watch list members caught entering the U.S. prompted CBP in April of 2022 to create an “Enforcement Statistics” page detailing all of its agents’ “Terrorist Screening Data Set Encounters.” At that time, roughly 42 people listed on the terror watchlist had been arrested attempting to enter the U.S. since Biden became president.
As the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center webpage notes, everyone listed on the watchlist is “reasonably suspected to be involved in terrorism (or related activities)” and most “are not Americans.” Because these people “have no known connection to the U.S.,” their increased presence at the southwest and northern borders of the nation, where overwhelmed border agents struggle to keep up with the years-long influx of migrants, is suspect.
Just as millions of arrests and hundreds of thousands of gotaways continue to increase, so does the number of national security threats seeping into the country. As Todd Bensman, the Center for Immigration Studies’ Texas-based senior national security fellow, writes, “remember that not all terrorism-linked ‘special interest aliens’ coming from nations of national security concern get as far as nomination and approval for the FBI terrorism watch list, which involves a lengthy, multi-tiered process.”
“Some 3,000 to 4,000 special interest aliens are caught between ports of entry every year from the same countries as those who do make the FBI terrorism watch list. Terror links may not come out until much later, after the individual is in the country,” he warned.
Republicans on the House Committee on Homeland Security sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and FBI Director Christopher Wray in late May demanding information about suspected terrorists, specifically an Afghan national and a Pakistani national, who were caught trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in May.
“These reported arrests raise serious questions about the security of our Southwest border and the potential for terrorists to take advantage of the glaring vulnerabilities due to the Biden-Harris administration’s open-border policies,” the Republicans wrote.
That demand was preceded by a letter from Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, and Homeland Security Committee Chair Mark Green pressuring Mayorkas to explain how DHS “is handling the elevated national security risk presented by an increasing number of aliens with terrorist ties illegally crossing the southwest border into the United States.”