Border Patrol Apprehends 127 Noncitizens on FBI Terror Watchlist Trying to Enter US Illegally
According to recently released federal data, Border Patrol agents on the Canadian and Mexican borders have caught 127 noncitizens listed on the FBI’s terror watchlist who attempted to enter the United States illegally since the start of fiscal 2023.
The numbers published by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Tuesday revealed that the apprehensions of individuals on the terror watchlist between October 2022 and May 2023 were higher than the previous year’s 98 arrests over 12 months, which was the highest level in at least the last four years.
Major Increase in Terror Watchlist Apprehensions
The spike in apprehensions is significant, considering that there were zero arrests in 2019 when the U.S. border faced a smaller-scale humanitarian and national security crisis. In 2022, there were 98 arrests, and this year, the number has already reached 127.
In May alone, nearly two dozen individuals were stopped, adding to the more than 170,000 people arrested by Border Patrol for illegally entering the country by bypassing the ports of entry.
It is important to note that CBP does not disclose the nationalities of immigrants who match the terror watchlist. The FBI database includes both known and suspected terrorists, which can also include family members or affiliates who are not directly involved in terrorism.
Colombian Citizens and Terror Ties
Last year, unpublished data obtained by the Washington Examiner from the Department of Homeland Security revealed that the majority of known or suspected terrorists arrested by Border Patrol were citizens of Colombia, not countries in the Eastern Hemisphere where major terrorist groups are based.
However, immigration analyst Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute pointed out that some Colombians on the watchlist may not pose true terror threats. He explained that they might have been affiliated with organizations that have since been delisted as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the State Department, but their individual names remain in the database.
The State Department currently lists two Colombian groups as foreign terrorist organizations: the Segunda Marquetalia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army, or FARC-EP.
Changing Demographics and Border Vulnerabilities
The increase in terrorist-related arrests over the past two years coincides with a significant demographic shift in immigrants attempting to enter the U.S. through the southern border.
CBP data from 2007 showed that Mexicans accounted for 90% of all arrests that year. However, by 2019, immigrants from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras made up over 70% of all arrests. In 2021, immigrants from countries outside Mexico and the Northern Triangle constituted 32% of the total 3.4 million apprehensions.
Furthermore, at the air, sea, and land ports of entry nationwide, there have been 337 noncitizens seeking admission in 2023 who were determined to be on the FBI list, a significantly higher number than the 127 apprehended by Border Patrol.
Border Vulnerabilities Exploited by Immigrants
FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the Senate in August 2022, stating that while there was no immediate threat from foreign terrorist organizations at the border, terrorists were actively seeking vulnerabilities to exploit.
Over the past two years, up to half of Border Patrol agents were redirected from the field to process and transport the high volume of illegal immigrants crossing the border. This has created vulnerabilities that immigrants have taken advantage of to enter the U.S. undetected.
Click here to read more from the Washington Examiner.
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