Economy

FBI terror watchlist arrests, encounters at southern border for FY 23 hits all-time record

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The number of people arrested in FY 2023 by Border Patrol at the southern border who are on the FBI’s terror watchlist has hit a new record at the end of May, according to new data released on Tuesday.

As of the end of May, there have been 125 arrests at the southern border between ports of entry by Border Patrol since the fiscal year began in October. 

That is higher than FY 2022’s 98 encounters, which itself broke a record. In FY 21 there were just 15 arrests and in FY 20 just three. In FY 19, there were zero at the southern border between ports of entry.

Numbers of encounters of those on the watchlist entering through ports of entry and encountered by Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations (OFO) typically eclipse those encountered between ports of entry.

So far in FY 2023, there have been 337 encountered at the northern and southern ports so far, compared to 380 in FY 2022 and 157 in FY 21.

The watch list, officially called the Terrorist Screening Dataset (TSDS) is the government’s database that ‘contains sensitive information on terrorist identities.’

‘The TSDS originated as the consolidated terrorist watchlist to house information on known or suspected terrorists (KSTs) but has 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 says.

While the number is relatively small, compared to the millions of migrants encountered at the borders in recent years, Republicans and former border officials have raised concern about the numbers of those on the terror watch list who are getting past Border Patrol agents.

There were at least 599,000 illegal immigrants who escaped Border Patrol custody in FY 2022, after more than 390,000 in FY 2021.

Overall in May at the southern border, there were 204,561 migrant encounters at both the ports and between them, bringing the total for the fiscal year so far to 1.6 million encounters. That’s compared to nearly 2.4 in FY 2022 and over 1.7 in FY 2021.

The data comes as DHS announced that Deputy Secretary John Tien is retiring in July – marking another high-profile loss for the agency, which has already announced the departures of its Border Patrol chief and acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director.

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