Number of people on terrorist watchlist stopped at southern U.S. border has risen

Homeland Threat Assessment, released by the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday, states that border agents in the United States have encountered a growing number of people who are on the FBI terrorist watchlist and trying to enter the U.S. via the southern border.

Customs and Border Protection had apprehended 160 migrants, whose identifies matched those in the Terrorist Screening Dataset, as of July. This compares to 100 migrants who were caught trying to cross the U.S. – Mexico border during fiscal years 2022 and 2022. Fiscal years end at the end of September.

As of July of this fiscal year, the number of people on the terrorist watchlist, including U.S. Citizens, who were stopped at the southern boundary was 216. This compares to 165 for the entire fiscal year of 2022. Fiscal year 2019 saw a higher number of border-crossers on the watchlist, at 280.

An official from DHS told reporters that this increase is in line with the overall rise of migrants crossing the border, and the increasing number of migrants from conflict areas.

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Homeland Threat Assessment reported that the number of migrants coming from the Eastern Hemisphere has more than doubled from 118,000 in fiscal 2022 to 228,000 in fiscal 2023. The Eastern Hemisphere is made up of Africa, the Middle East and other regions.

A DHS official explained to reporters that the increase in encounters with individuals who are on terror screening data sets is largely in line with the increased flow of people at the border. “Naturally as more people from other countries arrive at the border, we will more likely see an increase of individuals who may be on the terror watchlist or directly linked to terrorist activity.”

Another DHS official stated that those on the watchlist may be relatives of terrorists. Their crossings accounted for just 0.01% out of more than 1,000,000 crossings at the southern U.S. Border in the past fiscal year.

The DHS official stated that “DHS will continue to work tirelessly in order to screen, vet, and prevent anyone who is a potential threat from entering this country.”

Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), then ranking member of Intelligence Committee and a former terrorist watchlist official, stated in 2016 that there were more than one million people on the list. The “no-fly” list is a smaller subset of watchlist. Histoically, those on the watchlist have been stopped more often at U.S. airports rather than crossing the U.S. Mexico border. Homeland Threat Assessment didn’t say how many airport passengers were on the watchlist by 2023.

In addition, the assessment found that both domestic and foreign terrorists will likely continue to pose a threat to homeland security in the United States by 2023. Officials said that the threat of radicalization in the U.S. will “remain high, but unchanged”.

The report stated that Americans are more likely to die of illegal drug overdoses compared to terrorist attacks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year. More than 75% were caused by fentanyl and synthetic opioids.

The threat of terrorism to the Homeland is a constant, but drugs are a greater danger. Drugs kill and injure more Americans each year. The threat assessment stated that the increased supply of the drug fentanyl, and the variations in production over the past year, have increased its lethality. This trend is likely to continue in 2024.