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Watchlist Individuals Stopped at Northern and Southern Borders on Track to Exceed Previous Fiscal Year’s Numbers

Total encounters at the southwest border were 191,900 in March, an increase of nearly 23 percent from 156,138 in February but down from 222,574 encounters in March 2022.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has encountered 250 individuals on the terror watchlist at ports of entry since the beginning of the current fiscal year and 82 between ports of entry, according to updated statistics released by the agency this week.

The Terrorist Screening Dataset (TSDS) originally consisted of known or suspected terrorists but has expanded over the years to include individuals such as affiliates of watchlisted people or members of Transnational Criminal Organizations.

This fiscal year to date, 205 TSDS individuals have presented themselves at a port of entry on the northern border of the United States and 45 have done so at the southern border.  Fiscal year 2023 began on Oct. 1, 2022, and ends on Sept. 30; for the entirety of fiscal year 2022, 313 TSDS individuals were stopped at a northern border port of entry and 67 on the southern border.

So far in FY2023, Border Patrol agents have encountered 80 TSDS individuals between ports of entry on the southern border and two on the northern border. In fiscal year 2022, 98 TSDS individuals were stopped by Border Patrol between ports of entry — all on the southern border. In fiscal year 2021, 16 TSDS individuals were stopped between ports of entry at both borders.

TSDS encounters represent 0.0077 percent of all CBP encounters this fiscal year to date, compared to 0.0044 percent in FY2022.

“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,” CBP said. “DHS works tirelessly to secure our borders through a combination of highly trained personnel, ground and aerial monitoring systems, and robust intelligence and information sharing networks.”

Overall, the Border Patrol encountered 162,317 individuals between ports of entry at the southwest border last month, a 25 percent increase from 130,024 in February. CBP said the seasonal jump in migrants and, subsequently, apprehensions is to be expected and stressed the year-over-year decrease.

“CBP works around the clock to perform our vital missions including maintaining border security,” Acting Commissioner Troy Miller said in a statement. “Overall, in March, encounters of individuals on the Southwest border between ports of entry were down 23% from the prior year, as we continue to respond to the challenges presented by increasing global migration.”

“CBP will continue to enforce our immigration laws and ramp up efforts to combat smuggler misinformation as we prepare to return to expedited removal proceedings under Title 8 authorities, which carry stricter consequences like a five-year ban on reentry and potential criminal prosecution for unlawful entry,” he added.

Total encounters at the southwest border — including noncitizens processed at ports of entry and the aforementioned Border Patrol encounters — were 191,900 in March, an increase of nearly 23 percent from 156,138 in February but down from 222,574 encounters in March 2022.

Encounters of single adults increased by 19 percent from the previous month, the number of unaccompanied children increased 14 percent, and encounters of family units jumped by 38 percent; 22 percent of those families were processed for expulsion under Title 42.

CBP reported 43,958 (23 percent) repeat encounters and 123,898 (65 percent) unique encounters in March, a 28 percent increase in the number of unique individuals encountered compared to February.

In March, 27,783 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans, including immediate family members where applicable, were paroled into the country through the process designated for migrants from these countries. Eligibility for the new process is considered on a case-by-case basis; the program allows for advance authorization to travel to U.S. and seek up to two years of parole if the individual has a financial supporter in the United States, passes robust security vetting, and meets other criteria. At its inception, DHS said that up to 30,000 people per month from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua will be admitted under the parole and work authorization program, with DHS vowing “significant consequences for those who fail to use those pathways.” Mexico agreed to accept returns of 30,000 individuals per month from these four countries if they don’t go through the new process.

The seven-day average of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans between ports of entry was 1,231 on Jan. 5, the day the parole program was extended to Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans. On March 31, the seven-day average had dropped to 339.

More than 74,000 individuals — with the top nationalities being Mexican, Venezuelan and Haitian — scheduled an appointment via the CBP One mobile application through the end of March. The use of the CBP One app, which allows travelers and stakeholders to access CBP mobile applications and services, was expanded in January to let migrants approaching the southwest border make an appointment at a point of entry to seek an exemption to the CDC’s Title 42 public health order. Through the app, they can submit certain biographic and biometric information to CBP and make an appointment up to 14 days in advance at the ports of entry in Nogales, Brownsville, Eagle Pass, Hidalgo, Laredo, El Paso, Calexico or San Ysidro.

Last month, CBP processed 22,865 individuals at ports of entry who claimed exceptions to Title 42 based on CBP One’s individual vulnerability assessment. “The high demand for these appointments has meant that not all individuals seeking appointments have yet been able to schedule them, but the transition of the exceptions process to CBP One allows more open access and has provided immediate benefits in reducing the exploitation of vulnerable persons seeking to present at ports of entry,” CBP said.

CBP One’s scheduling functionality for undocumented migrants is now available in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole.

Last month, CBP reported an 18 percent drop in cocaine seizures. In the March report, cocaine seizures increases 128 percent — leading an overall 30 percent jump in drug seizures in March compared to February.

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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