There were 17 encounters of people between ports of entry at the southern border on the FBI’s terror watch list in November, according to data released Friday by Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
It brings the total of people encountered by the Border Patrol between ports of entry on the watch list to 30 for FY 24, which began in October.
The watch list, now officially called the Terrorist Screening Dataset, is the U.S. database that contains information on terrorist identities and includes not only known or suspected terrorists but also affiliates of watch-listed individuals.
FY 23 saw a record 169 terror watchlist encounters by Border Patrol between the ports of entry at the southern border, a number that exceeded not only fiscal year 2022’s record-setting total (98) but the last six fiscal years combined. The numbers at the ports themselves are significantly higher. There have been 49 encounters at ports at the north and southern borders so far this fiscal year, compared to 564 last year.
“Encounters of watchlisted individuals at our borders are very uncommon, underscoring the critical work CBP Agents and Officers carry out every day on the frontlines,” the CBP website says.
But the numbers between the ports raise concerns given that those who have dangerous criminal histories or ties may seek to enter the U.S. either as part of a group of migrants or evade Border Patrol as “gotaways.”
The number of terror watchlist encounters drew more attention in the wake of the Hamas terror attack on Israel, with lawmakers expressing concern that terrorist fighters may seek to cross into the U.S.
The Department of Homeland Security’s threat assessment, published in October, noted that agents have encountered a growing number on the watch list and warned that “terrorists and criminal actors may exploit the elevated flow and increasingly complex security environment to enter the United States.”
“Individuals with terrorism connections are interested in using established travel routes and permissive environments to facilitate access to the United States,” the assessment also said.
The numbers are only a small part of the 242,000+ migrants encountered at the southern border in November, which marked the highest November on record and the third-highest month on record.
It comes as the Border Patrol has been dealing with increased numbers after a FY 23 that broke the record for encounters in a single fiscal year. Agents have been overwhelmed by a surge of migrants from across the globe in places like Lukeville, Arizona, and Eagle Pass, Texas.
Monday saw a record 12,600 encounters, the highest recorded in a single day. Sources told Fox that December has already exceeded 200,000 encounters and could easily eclipse November’s numbers, given that agents are encountering 10,000+ a day.
Meanwhile, sources told Fox News this week that the Border Patrol has released more than 386,000 illegal immigrants into the U.S. with notices to appear. That does not include those released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and does not include migrants paroled into the U.S. via the CBP One app at ports of entry.
Meanwhile, border security measures and asylum limits are being debated in Washington as lawmakers seek to find agreement on the White House’s supplemental funding request, which includes $14 billion for border funding.
Republicans have demanded greater limits on asylum and limits on the use of humanitarian parole. While lawmakers have expressed optimism on a potential agreement, it is not expected before January at the earliest.
Fox News’ Bill Melugin contributed to this report.
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