Border Patrol reports spike in terror watchlist suspects attempting to enter the US

John Moore/Getty Images
John Moore/Getty Images

Border Patrol reported a spike in encounters between agents and terror watchlist suspects attempting to enter the U.S. illegally and undetected at the southern border in fiscal year 2023. This comes as illegal immigration remains a major concern for voters heading into the 2024 presidential election. 

Data from the United States Customs and Border Protection show that fiscal year 2023, which came to a close on Sept. 30, saw 151 individuals on the Terrorist Screening Dataset, also known as the terrorist watchlist, apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border. The webpage was last updated on Sept. 15, meaning it’s possible that even more known or suspected terrorists crossed the U.S.-Mexico border between ports of entry in the final two weeks of the fiscal year. 

The number of known or suspected terrorists intercepted at the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2023 marked a record and followed three years of consistent increases in the number of such encounters. Fiscal year 2022, the first full year of the Biden administration, saw 98 known or suspected terrorists encountered at the Southwest border. 

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In fiscal year 2021, which includes the last three-and-a-half months of the Trump administration and the first seven-and-a-half months of the Biden administration, 15 known or suspected terrorists were caught at the Southwest border.

Only three such encounters occurred in fiscal year 2020, and fiscal year 2019 recorded zero apprehensions of individuals on the terrorist watchlist at the U.S.-Mexico border. Fiscal years 2017 and 2018 saw two and six known or suspected terrorists encountered at the Southwest border, respectively. 

Meanwhile, CBP has recorded 2,206,039 overall Southwest border land encounters between illegal immigrants and law enforcement officials in the first 11 months of fiscal year 2023. The number of monthly border crossings reached a record high of 252,230 in December and has remained above 100,000 since February 2021, President Joe Biden’s first full month in office. 

In August, the most recent month where data is available, saw 232,972 illegal border crossings. Should the number of border crossings for September meet or exceed this number, fiscal year 2023 is on track to break the record 2,378,944 annual border crossings registered in fiscal year 2022. 

The number of Southwest border land encounters between illegal immigrants and law enforcement officials since February 2021 adds up to 5,224,765. This figure exceeds the population of 28 U.S. states as measured by the 2020 U.S. Census

A report from the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, published Monday, reveals that the Biden administration has failed to remove 99.7% of the 2.1 million illegal immigrants released into the interior of the U.S. between Jan. 20, 2021, and Mar. 31, 2023. The committee estimated that more than 1.7 million illegal immigrants known as “gotaways” disappeared into the interior of the U.S., bringing the number of illegal aliens that have entered and remain in the U.S. during the Biden administration to 3.8 million.

The number of illegal aliens distributed throughout the interior of the U.S. since Biden took office exceeds the population of 22 U.S. states.

The large numbers of illegal immigrants admitted to the country, combined with the national security concerns posed by individuals on the terrorist watchlist entering the U.S., have caused illegal immigration to jump to the forefront of American voters’ minds heading into the 2024 presidential election. According to a poll of 1,500 U.S. adults conducted between Sept. 23-26 by The Economist/YouGov, 9% of Americans listed immigration as the most important issue. 

Only the issues of inflation/prices (24%), health care (11%), climate change and the environment (11%) and jobs and the economy (10%) were selected by higher percentages of Americans as the most important issue. Eighty-five percent of those surveyed identified immigration as either “very” or “somewhat” important. The Biden administration has received a cool reception from the American public on its handling of the immigration issue. 

According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls measuring Biden’s approval on the issue of immigration based on surveys conducted from Sept. 5-19, the president boasts a 29.2% net disapproval rating. That is higher than his overall net disapproval rating of 14.1%, which is based on polls taken from Sept. 15-Oct. 10. Only on the issue of inflation does Biden have a higher net disapproval rating, measured at 33.0%

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced that he had determined that it was “necessary to waive certain laws, regulations, and other legal requirements to ensure the expeditious construction of barriers and roads in the vicinity of the international land border in Starr County, Texas.” In other words, the administration is going to build a border wall.

When asked about the fact that his administration was constructing a wall despite its steadfast opposition to the idea, Biden claimed that “the money was appropriated for the border wall” during the previous administration, adding, “I tried to get them to reappropriate it, to redirect that money.”

After lamenting that “they didn’t” and “they wouldn’t,” Biden insisted that “in the meantime, there’s nothing under the law other than they have to use the money for what it was appropriated.” He maintained that “I can’t stop that.” When asked if he thought the border wall worked, Biden responded with a “no.”

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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