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38 people on terrorist watchlist stopped at Mexico border since October

A Border Patrol agent looks over some trails at Otay Mountain in San Diego on June 8, 2021. (Alejandro Tamayo/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)
January 24, 2023

More than three dozen people on the FBI’s terrorist watchlist have been apprehended trying to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border since October, a sharp rise against the backdrop of a record migration surge.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows that 38 people on the watchlist have been apprehended at the border so far in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

That’s on pace to surpass the previous fiscal year — Oct. 1, 2021 to Sept. 30, 2022 — in which 98 people on the terror watchlist were stopped on the southern border. That total was already nearly four times as many as were encountered in the previous five fiscal years combined.

The data reflects how many people on the terrorist watchlist were “encountered,” which the Department of Homeland Security defines as being either apprehended or deemed inadmissible by border officials. Apprehensions may or may not result in arrest, according to CPB. 

And as for illegal border crossers that couldn’t be apprehended and identified, there have been at least 1.2 million so-called “gotaways” since President Joe Biden took office, CPB sources told Fox News reporter Bill Melugin.

The terrorist watchlist includes known or suspected terrorists, as well as “additional individuals who represent a potential threat” to the U.S., including known affiliates of people on the watchlist, according to CPB.

The spike in terror watchlist encounters comes amid a broader increase in migrants crossing the southern border.

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Border Patrol reported more than 2.3 million migrant encounters on the southern border last fiscal year, with more than 700,000 already reported this year. Biden recently unveiled a set of new immigration policies after facing Republican attacks over the border situation for much of his presidency.

The 38 people on the terror watchlist encountered so far this fiscal year were stopped while illegally crossing between ports of entry. At legal ports of entry, hundreds of watchlisted people have been encountered at the Canadian and Mexican borders every year since at least 2017, according to the data.

Only four people on the terror watchlist have been stopped crossing the Canadian border between ports of entry since fiscal year 2017, according to CPB data.