The number of people encountered by Border Patrol agents at the southern border between ports of entry is on track to outpace the record number encountered last fiscal year, according to new data released by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) this week.
Agents stopped 16 people on the FBI’s terror watch list who crossed illegally at the southern border in February. It brings the total number of encounters for fiscal year 2023 to 69, which is on a pace to exceed the 98 encounters in the prior fiscal year.
There were only eight terror watch-list arrests between ports of entry between fiscal years 2017 and 2020, followed by 15 encounters in 2021.
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At the ports of entry at the northern and southern borders, CBP’s Office of Field Operations has encountered 214 people on the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) so far this fiscal year. In fiscal year 2022, there were 380 apprehensions, far more than the 157 in fiscal year 2021 and 196 in fiscal year 2020.
The numbers of those encountered on the TSDB are only a small number compared to the overall number of migrants, which was more than 150,000 in February. But the increase has fueled fears about who may be attempting to enter the United States.
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Republicans in particular have noted the TSDB numbers as a sign that the border needs to be better secured, and they have called for the Biden administration to take greater action to do so.
The numbers were released just hours after Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz testified to a House Homeland Security Committee hearing in McAllen, Texas, telling lawmakers that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not have operational control of the border.
The White House has pushed back against Republican criticism, accusing them of not approving border funding requests by the Biden administration, including a recent $5 billion request in December. Republicans have said it is policy, not funding, that is the cause of the crisis.
DHS said the hearing “highlights the vital work the Department of Homeland Security does every day to enforce our laws, secure our border, and combat cartels and smugglers” and pointed to work it is doing to make America safer.
“Despite inheriting a dismantled immigration system and facing unprecedented migration that is affecting nations throughout the Western Hemisphere, this administration has surged resources to the border, reducing the number of encounters between ports of entry, disrupting more smuggling operations than ever before, and interdicting more drugs in the last two years than had been stopped in the five years prior,” a spokesperson said.