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Record number of individuals on terrorist watch list encountered at southern border so far this year

In FY2023, there have been 140 suspected terrorists caught at the southern border, the highest amount since 2017, which is the earliest year included on the official U.S. Customs and Border Protection data chart.

Published: July 27, 2023 6:18am

Updated: July 27, 2023 12:36pm

A record number of people on the U.S. government's terrorist watchlist have been encountered at the southern border so far into this fiscal year, the latest federal government statistics show.

In FY2023, there have been 143 individuals on the terrorist watchlist encountered "between ports of entry." Among them, 140 were caught at the southern border, the highest amount since 2017, which is the earliest year included on the official U.S. Customs and Border Protection data chart. CBP encountered three at the northern border, according to the latest statistics.

A total of 382 individuals that appear on the terrorist watchlist have been caught at ports of entry, the highest amount since fiscal 2020.

Among them, 61 were encountered at the southern border, and 321 were encountered at the northern border.

CBP formally refers to this data as Terrorist Screening Dataset (TSDS) encounters. According to CBP, the TSDS watchlist is "the U.S. government’s database that contains sensitive information on terrorist identities." The TSDS "originated as the consolidated terrorist watchlist to house information on known or suspected terrorists (KSTs) but has evolved over the last decade to include additional individuals who represent a potential threat to the United States, including known affiliates of watchlisted individuals."

During a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was grilled about the suspected terrorists encountered at the U.S. border.

California GOP Rep. Darrell Issa asked Mayorkas to provide the status of the 140 individuals on the terrorist watchlist who were apprehended at the southern border so far in fiscal 2023.

Mayorkas said his staff would share that information to him at a later date. Other members of the committee asked Mayorkas how many of those suspected terrorists have been deported but Mayorkas did not provide the information at the hearing.

According to border patrol, suspected terrorists encountered by the border patrol at land ports of entry prior may be denied admission into the U.S. and/or arrested, then detained and/or removed. Suspected terrorists encountered "after entering the country without inspection" may be "detained and removed, to the extent possible under CBP policy, or turned over to another government agency for subsequent detention or law enforcement action."

California Republican Rep. Doug LaMalfa reacted to the latest watchlist data on Twitter.

"Border Patrol Agents have arrested 143 illegal immigrants on the terror watchlist for FY 2023, surpassing 2022's total by 25%. Who knows how many others slipped into our country, intent on doing us harm? The Admin's open borders policy puts American national security at risk," he wrote.

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