Unacceptable: House Oversight Hearing Reveals CBP Apprehended 98 on Terror Watchlist in the Last Year Alone

(John Gibbins/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP, Pool)

As RedState’s Bob Hoge detailed recently, the latest numbers from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reveal that since October 1, 2022, 38 individuals arrested at the southern border have names that match those on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). These are individuals who can be “reasonably suspected to be involved in terrorism (or related activities).”


At a House Oversight Committee hearing, on Tuesday, CBP officials confirmed to Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI) that nearly 100 individuals on that terror watch list were apprehended in Fiscal Year 2022 alone.

Rep. McClain began her questioning by thanking CBP Chiefs John Modlin and Gloria Chavez — both for appearing before the committee and for their efforts in protecting the nation’s border. She then asked Chief Modlin how many potential terrorists were apprehended in the last year, to which he responded that there were two in the Tucson sector, the sector he represents. McClain followed up by quoting to him CBP data which reported “98 suspected terrorists apprehended just last fiscal year on the southern border.” Modlin confirmed he had no reason to doubt that number and Chavez agreed, also confirming that represents a substantial increase from prior years.

With regard to “gotaways,” Modlin confirmed that CBP’s estimated number for FY2022 was over half a million. While neither chief wanted to speculate as to the identities of those who got away, Chavez noted:


“We are concerned always, of course, because to us, what matters is who and what comes between those ports of entry, and that we are able to identify every single person that comes through…and we’re not able to do that at this time.”

McClain asked if they would agree this presents a significant national security risk, to which Chavez responded:

“When we don’t have the right amount of resources, the technology, the infrastructure, the personnel, where agents can get to the…every bit of location across that border, to ensure that we have the vigilance necessary to find every person that’s crossing illegally, then we have a high probability that…we don’t know who’s coming across, yes.”

McClain then asked if the cartels had become more active in recent years. Chavez confirmed it was her belief and experience they have.

McClain’s final question was whether the “catch and release” policies incentivized more people to try to cross the border illegally. Chavez indicated she believed they were, stating:

“I think that with the current situation that we’ve been faced with here in the last year, where we are working now, with trying — we only have four dispositions to work with, which is return, remove, transfer to another agency, or release. I think that everyone nowadays has a cell phone, so when migrants are released into a community, they immediately contact their relatives, they contact others, so then that sort of incentivizes people to come across…correct.”


So, while the Biden administration contemplates how to respond to spy balloons from hostile countries in our airspace, they’re also faced with an increasing national security risk on our southern border, with close to 100 individuals on the terror watchlist apprehended in the last fiscal year, and 38 in the first quarter of FY2023 (indicating a continued uptick in those numbers). And with no way to identify the staggering number of “gotaways.”

As the Oversight Committee tweet rightly observes: “The world knows our border is open and bad actors are trying to exploit it.”



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