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Terrorist watch list apprehensions at northern border continue to break records


(The Center Square) – The number of known or suspected terrorists (KSTs) apprehended at the northern border in the first six months of fiscal 2024 continue to outpace those apprehended at the southwest border.

There have been 143 KSTs apprehended at the northern border through the first six months of this fiscal year compared to 92 at the southwest border, according to the most recent CBP data.

Those apprehended are known to law enforcement and in the national Terrorist Screening Dataset, a federal database that contains sensitive information on terrorist identities. It originated as a consolidated terrorist watchlist “to house information on known or suspected terrorists but evolved over the last decade to include additional individuals who represent a potential threat to the United States, including known affiliates of watchlisted individuals,” CBP explains.

This is after the greatest number of foreign nationals were apprehended illegally entering through the northern border than at any time in U.S. history during the same time period, The Center Square reported.

The greatest number of KSTs to ever be apprehended in U.S. history was at the northern border in fiscal 2023 of 484. The next greatest number to be apprehended in U.S. history was 313 at the northern border in fiscal 2022, according to CBP data.

Overall, the greatest combined number of KSTs apprehended at both the northern and southerns borders was in fiscal 2023 of 736, The Center Square reported. The greatest number of KSTs have historically been apprehended at the northern border, outpacing those apprehended at the southwest border for years, The Center Square first reported.

“The alarming conclusion from these numbers is every day we have individuals that are on the FBI terrorist watch list that could have an intention to harm our country and are entering every single day,” former Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan told The Center Square. “It’s not if or when the threat tries to come to our country. We already know that’s happening already. The threat is already here,” he said, referring to the at least two million gotaways, those who illegally entered the country and evaded capture.

While total illegal entries at the northern border are “minuscule” compared to the southwest border, “the threat is not,” he said. “While there are shortages of resources across the board, the northern border doesn’t have the infrastructure, technology, personnel that the southwest border has. The northern border represents a threat.”

In his 30-plus-year law enforcement career, Morgan also served as acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He also served for 20 years with the FBI in multiple capacities, targeting organized crime, gangs, and counterterrorism operations, among others.

Morgan was among a group of retired FBI counterintelligence officials to warn Congress in January that the presidents’ border policies had facilitated a “soft invasion” into the U.S. of military-age men coming from terror-linked regions, China and Russia.

“It would be difficult to overstate the danger represented by the presence inside our borders of what is comparatively a multi-division army of young single adult males from hostile nations and regions whose background, intent, or allegiance is completely unknown,” they warned. “They include individuals encountered by border officials and then possibly released into the country, along with the shockingly high estimate of ‘gotaways,’ meaning those who have entered and evaded apprehension.”

Of the more than 11 million foreign nationals who have illegally entered the U.S. since January 2021, the majority are single military age men, The Center Square has reported.

Every year the numbers break previous records; this fiscal year is no different. More than 1.7 million foreign nationals illegally entered the U.S. in the first six months of fiscal 2024, the greatest number for this time period in U.S. history, The Center Square reported.

Among them are individuals with ties to the terrorist group ISIS, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned earlier this year, after making repeated remarks about heightened terrorist threats since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

House Republicans have demanded answers from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on how many KSTs have been released into the country.

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, introduced a bill to require federal agents to screen everyone who enters the country illegally against the terrorist watch list.

Morgan praised the work of CBP and Border Patrol agents apprehending KSTs but also raised concerns about those who weren’t being caught due to the sheer volume coming in and the fact that agents have been pulled away from their national security mandate.

“Every single day we have individuals on FBI terrorist watch list who are trying to come into the country,” Morgan told The Center Square. “If you think we are catching everybody, you live in a dream world. If you think we are able to identify everyone on the watch list as well, that’s not happening either.

“How many on the watchlist that we’ve apprehended who illegally came into the U.S. were released? How many have claimed asylum and we’ve let them in?

“Countless national security threats have gotten by us, and they are in the United States. We know nothing about them, where they are at, or what they are planning to do.”

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