U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that 18 people from the FBI’s terror watchlist were arrested at the southern border in September.
The watchlist “is the U.S. government’s database that contains sensitive information on terrorist identities,” the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website states. The database also houses 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.”
The FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center says that there are approximately 420,000 individuals on the watchlist.
During fiscal year 2023, which ended September 30, 169 people from the FBI terror watchlist were arrested at the southern border, more than the combined number of arrests of suspected terrorists between 2017 and 2022, according to CBP.
When accounting for arrests at the northern border, CBP logged 172 arrests of suspected terrorists.
The CBP website claims that encounters with such individuals are very uncommon and demonstrate “the critical work CBP Agents and Officers carry out every day on the frontlines.”
“[The Department of Homeland Security] works tirelessly to secure our borders through a combination of highly trained personnel, ground and aerial monitoring systems, and robust intelligence and information sharing networks,” states the CBP website.
Additionally, a Department of Homeland Security official said in September that the increasing number of encounters involving people from the watchlist is not unexpected due to the overall increase in encounters with unlawful migrants at the southern border.
“Naturally, as we see more people arrive at the border from different countries, we are more likely going to see an increase in individuals who might be on the watchlist or directly related to terror activity,” the spokesperson said, per NBC News.
Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) expressed uneasiness over the increasing number of encounters, saying in a press release that he is “very concerned about potential sleeper cells that can be coming across our southern border.”
“I asked Border Patrol agents how Syrian, how Lebanese, how Middle Eastern country citizens can come in, and they told me they fly first and foremost to an airport in the Middle East — could be Saudi Arabia, could be in Dubai — and then from there, they take a flight to Colombia,” Daines said in the release.
“Then from Colombia. They’re taking a trip, oftentimes by bus, across Central America, across Mexico [to] our southern border,” he added.
Similarly, leaked CBP data shows that more than 60,000 “special interest aliens” (SIA) have been encountered at the border in the last two years, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
According to Homeland Security, an SIA is any person who “potentially poses a national security risk to the United States or its interests.”
The increased number of encounters with SIAs and those on the FBI terror watchlist adds to the ongoing crisis at the southern border. CBP reported a record number of encounters with unlawful migrants for a single month in September.
CBP reported 269,735 encounters in September, breaking the previous record of 252,315 encounters in December 2022, as reported by The Dallas Express.