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16 on FBI terror watchlist arrested at US-Mexico border in February

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)
March 21, 2023

Border Patrol agents encountered 16 people registered on the FBI’s terrorist watch list illegally crossing the southern border in February — and appear set to encounter more this fiscal year than they did in the last.

Customs and Border Protection data says a total of 69 people on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database have been encountered at the southern border since the fiscal year began in October, compared to a total of 69 across the previous fiscal year, Fox News reported.

READ MORE: US citizen mom of 7 kidnapped in Mexico; FBI offering reward

Department of Homeland Security defines an “encounter” as when a non-citizen is arrested or deemed inadmissible by border officials. Apprehensions may or may not result in arrest, according to CPB. 

Between the 2017 and 2020 fiscal years, CBP data shows 11 arrests of people on the terror watch list trying to illegally cross the southern border.

The terror watch list arrests were only a few of the 128,877 people encountered trying to illegally cross the southern border in February, according to a CBP press release. 

Illegal migrant encounters cratered to a historic low in April 2020 but have rocketed past highs not seen in two decades since then, as reported by the Pew Research Center.

After a record surge in migration over the last two years, CBP noted in a press release that last month was the second month in a row of the lowest illegal migrant encounters since February 2021.

READ MORE: 38 people on terrorist watchlist stopped at Mexico border since October

In the press release, CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller said he was “encouraged” by the fact that February’s overall encounter rate was just under January’s, as well as “new functionality in the CBP One” mobile app allowing migrants “to safely and easily schedule an appointment at a Port of Entry” to apply for asylum.

CPB’s monthly February data was released as the chief of Border Patrol testified at a congressional hearing that the Department of Homeland Security does not have “operational control” over the entire U.S. border.