More than 80 suspects on the U.S. terrorist watchlist have been caught sneaking across the U.S.-Mexico border since President Joe Biden took office, according to Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
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Last week, Abbott tweeted, “80+ terrorists on the Terrorist Watchlist have been encountered along our southern border since Pres. Biden took office. His refusal to secure the border is a direct threat to our national security. Texas is stepping up to protect Americans from these dangerous criminals.”
Abbott shared a graphic from the Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) Fusion Center. The graphic said 66 non-U.S. citizens on the federal Terrorist Screening Dataset (TSDS) have been encountered in areas between U.S. ports of entry (POEs) just in the 2022 fiscal year.
The TSDS is colloquially known as the terrorist “watchlist.” The dataset originally included both known or suspected terrorists (KSTs), but has since expanded to include individuals who may pose a threat to the U.S., such as known affiliates of these KSTs.
Those intending to enter the country lawfully may do so by passing through any of 300 designated ports of entry around the U.S. The references to apprehensions at areas between points of entry indicate people who attempted to get inside the U.S. outside the legal entry points.
In addition to the 66 apprehensions so far this year, there were another 15 recorded terrorist watchlist encounters between points of entry in the 2021 fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2020 and ended on Sept. 30, 2021. Biden took office on Jan. 20, 2021.
The 81 terrorist watchlist encounters outside of the points of entry at the southern border since the start of fiscal year 2021 are more than seven times the number of those types of encounters from fiscal years 2017 through the end of fiscal year 2020. During those years, there were 11 recorded terrorist watchlist encounters between points of entry at the Southern border.
The Texas DPS said “the sharp rise in apprehensions of watchlisted individuals coincides with a significant rise in overall border encounters: FY22 has seen 1,822,160 encounters through July, more than the FY21 total of 1,662,167, which was more than four times FY20’s 405,036 border encounters.”
Throughout Biden’s presidency, Abbott has called for more resources to go towards securing the Southern border. Last year, Abbott called for Biden to declare a state of emergency at the border. Abbott also more than doubled funding for Texas’ own border security initiatives, signing a $1.8 billion bill that would include funding to build more physical barriers on the border between points of entry.