(The Center Square) – There were 736 known or suspected terrorists (KSTs) apprehended at the northern and southern borders in fiscal 2023.
The Center Square initially reported 659 were apprehended for the fiscal year, as of Sept. 15, 2023. The fiscal year ended Sept. 30.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection published new data this weekend revealing that federal agents apprehended an additional 77 in the last two weeks of September.
The total of 736 is the greatest number of KSTs apprehended in recorded U.S. history.
A significant majority – 66% – were apprehended at the northern border, 487. By comparison, 249 were apprehended at the southwest border.
These numbers don’t include gotaways, which are believed to also include KSTs. “Gotaways” is the official U.S. Customs and Border Patrol term that refers to those who illegally enter the U.S. between ports of entry, don’t return to Mexico or Canada, and are not apprehended. They total at least nearly 1.7 million since January 2021. However, the number is believed to be much higher because not all gotaways are known and or reported.
With people illegally entering the U.S. from over 170 countries, former ICE Chief Tom Homan told The Center Square some of these countries they are coming from are sponsors of terrorism.
“If you don’t think a single one of the 1.7 million [gotaways] is coming from a country that sponsors terrorism, then you’re ignoring the data,” he said. “That’s what makes this a huge national security issue.”
KSTs are primarily apprehended two different ways by two different federal agents. Office of Field Operations (OFO) agents, who work at land ports of entry, are tasked with stopping “inadmissables,” or illegal foreign nationals, KSTs and a range of other people or contraband prior to entering the U.S.
Border Patrol agents work between ports of entry, patrolling the border to apprehend foreign nationals who’ve already illegally entered the U.S.
In addition to the majority of KSTs apprehended at the northern border, the majority were also caught attempting to enter through ports of entry.
OFO agents working at northern ports of entry have apprehended more than those at southwest ports of entry in four out of the last seven fiscal years.
In fiscal 2023, OFO agents apprehended 484 KSTs at northern border ports of entry and 80 KSTs at southwest border land ports of entry, totaling 564 at ports of entry at both borders.
Border Patrol agents apprehended 169 KSTs between ports of entry along the southwest border and three between ports of entry along the northern border, totaling 154.
The Terrorist Screening Dataset is the federal database that contains sensitive information on terrorist identities, CBP said. 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.”
By comparison, OFO and Border Patrol agents combined apprehended a total of 478 KSTs in fiscal 2022, 173 in fiscal 2021, 199 in fiscal 2020, 541 in fiscal 2019, 357 in fiscal 2018, and 353 in fiscal 2017.