By Melanie Sun

Border Patrol officers in the month of November identified 17 individuals on the FBI’s terror watch list attempting to illegally enter the United States outside an established port of entry on the southern border.

The 17 were processed by law enforcement agents after crossing into the United States, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP). There has been an increasing trend in the number of known terrorists found to be entering the U.S. southern border beyond ports of entry, with a record 169 individuals detected in Financial Year 2023.

A record number of individuals of interest on the watch list have also been attempting entry at U.S. ports of entry on either the northern or southern border, with 564 individuals detected at ports in FY 2023.

The 17 individuals last month add to 13 entries by individuals on the watch list caught outside a port of entry in October. Another 49 individuals were apprehended attempting entry at a U.S. port of entry since October for FY 2024.

The federal dataset maintained by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center includes the identifying information of known and suspected terrorists and terrorist groups, as well as the information of their affiliates.

“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.

The increase in individuals on the terror watch list attempting to enter the United States is of concern, as they only represent the ones processed by Border Patrol. It is possible that other individuals on the list may have attempted entry and evaded law enforcement, being among the many “gotaways” getting through the porous and underresourced border.

The terror watch list figures also come as Members of Congress voice concern about a heightened risk of terrorists entering the United States following Hamas’s attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and the resulting war.

Illegal Immigration Crisis

FY23 broke the record for illegal immigrant encounters.

Over 242,000 illegal immigrants were processed by Border Patrol at the southern border in November—the third-highest monthly record. Nearly 80 percent of these apprehensions were for border crossings outside of legal ports of entry.

Historic CBP data indicates U.S. border officials had never logged more than 80,000 encounters in any given November prior to 2022.

Of the 191,113 November Title 8 apprehensions, more than 6,300 were illegal immigrants attempting another entry to the United States after already being removed by law enforcement for failing to meet the necessary requirements for asylum.

These figures do not include the 43,000 immigrants who followed the U.S. immigration process and have been granted parole through the CBP One app.

December totals are expected to easily surpass the November totals, as agents have been consistently overwhelmed by more than 12,000 encounters each day at the southern border, particularly at the Ports of Entry in Lukeville, Arizona, and Eagle Pass, Texas.

The Department of Homeland Security itself warned in its October threat assessment that, with agents reporting an increasing number of attempted entries from the terror watch list, there is a greater risk 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.

Funding for Border Security

Congress is currently negotiating a $105 billion supplemental funding bill that ties together funding for the border with funding for Israel’s war against Hamas and support for Ukraine in its war with Russia.

The Biden administration has allocated $14 billion towards beefing up border personnel and staff to process asylum claims. However, Republicans want to see the Biden administration act on border security without conditions, and in a manner that tackles what they say are the underlying problems causing the mass surge in illegal immigration. They are pushing for stricter border security measures, completion of the border wall in gaps between ports of entry, and limits on the use of humanitarian parole, as well as policies to dissuade illegal border crossings and frivolous asylum claims.

“We are facing a serious challenge along the southwest border and CBP and our federal partners need more resources from Congress—as outlined in the supplemental budget request—to enhance border security and America’s national security,” senior official performing the duties of the commissioner Troy Miller said in a statement on the need for immediate border funding.

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