Republican Texas Rep. Michael McCaul said he was concerned about the record number of attempted border crossings by people on the U.S. terrorist watchlist at a congressional hearing last week.
“We’ve had about 7.5 million encounters at the southern border. We’ve had 7,000 special interest aliens. We’ve had nearly 200 (encounters with individuals) on the terror watchlist (this year),” he said in a press release after the hearing.
While questioning FBI Director Christopher Wray, McCaul asked whether 200 encounters at the border with individuals on the terror watchlist concerned the FBI chief.
“Certainly, the numbers give us concern,” Wray replied. “I think it’s important, though, in some ways to realize that numbers alone don’t even tell the problem. We’ve all seen how much damage just a small number of foreign terrorists could cause.”
Wray added: “Sometimes people, as crazy as it sounds, tend to forget that it was 19 people who killed 3,000 people on 9/11.”
What is the terror watchlist?
The watchlist is a database of known and suspected terrorists, which has evolved over the last decade
“Essentially almost anybody could be included on here, and there really isn’t any kind of serious effort to make sure that people on there are actual threats,” Alex Nowrasteh, an analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, told The Houston Chronicle.
Nowrasteh said he found no evidence that an individual on the watchlist has attempted an attack in the U.S. after crossing the border illegally.
The FBI chief said at the hearing that some individuals on the watchlist are still being located after crossing the border.
National Counterterrorism Center Director Christine Abizaid, who was also at the hearing, said her agency doesn’t have any evidence of “foreign terrorist organizations’ intentions to try and seed operatives into the U.S.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security said in its annual threat assessment report that terrorists “may exploit the elevated flow” of migrants, which was higher in 2023 than any other year except 2022.
Migrants from at least 20 nationalities crossing the border
Analyzing the surge shows that the migrants crossing the border are diverse in terms of their nationalities. As Fox News reported, since Oct. 1, Customs and Border Protection has encountered more than 6,500 Chinese nationals. The border patrol also reported over 140 encounters from Syria, 80 from Iran and 1,500 from Uzbekistan.
According to data from the Border Patrol, here’s a breakdown by nationality of the 2.4 million migrants who crossed the border from October 2022 to September 2023:
- Brazil — 27,687
- China — 24,314
- Colombia — 159,536
- Cuba — 142,352
- Ecuador — 116,229
- El Salvador — 61,515
- Guatemala — 220,085
- Haiti — 76,130
- Honduras — 213,686
- India — 41,770
- Mexico — 717,333
- Nicaragua — 99,496
- Peru — 75,719
- Philippines — 36
- Romania — 2,088
- Russia — 43,210
- Turkey — 15,542
- Ukraine — 246
- Venezuela — 266,071
- Other — 172,517.