Border Patrol agents in a single border sector arrested five migrants later discovered to be on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) watch list. The apprehensions occurred on Friday in the Tucson Sector of the United States Border Patrol shortly after the end of Title 42. According to a source within Customs and Border Protection, not authorized to speak to the media, the migrants were referred to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task for further investigation and identity confirmation.
The source says the arrests of the foreign nationals who illegally crossed the border and attempted to avoid detection and apprehension occurred in separate incidents throughout the day and evening on Friday. Information regarding the demographics and nationalities of the arrested migrants was not available.
According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection report, a total of 80 migrants who are listed in the Terrorist Screening Database have been apprehended after entering the United States along the southwest border between ports of entry this fiscal year. Two more were apprehended after crossing the northern border with Canada.
The data includes migrants apprehended between October 2022 and March 2023. The migrants whose names are listed in the TSDB differ from migrants who are scrutinized as being from special interest countries.
According to the FBI, Terrorist Screening Database contains information related to specific individuals reasonably suspected to be involved in terrorism (or related activities). A person’s name being listed in the TSDB triggers a reporting process that alerts the FBI to an encounter by the Border Patrol. The source says the additional scrutiny triggered by the encounter includes verification that the migrant whose name matches a name on the list is in fact the same person.
The source says that the investigation and additional interviews by the FBI’s JTTF determine the subsequent actions taken by DHS related to the consequences a migrant may face after initial processing.
The FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) maintains the database and provides the information to several law enforcement agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. The TSC does not confirm anyone’s status on the watchlist. According to the FBI, most people on the terrorism watchlist are not Americans and they have no known connection to the U.S.
The number of migrants appearing in the TSDB skyrocketed under the Biden administration. During the four fiscal years of the Trump administration (FY 17 through FY 20) agents apprehended only 14 migrants appearing in the national security database. During FY 21, FY 22, and Year-to-Date FY 23 agents apprehended 196 known or suspected terrorists on the list, the CBP report states. These numbers do not include the arrests on Friday.
In March, Breitbart Texas reported a statement from CBP regarding migrants on the TSDS list:
TSDS watchlisted individuals encountered by the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) after entering the country without inspection may be detained and removed, to the extent possible under CBP policy, or turned over to another government agency for subsequent detention or law enforcement action, as appropriate.
The TSDS originated as the consolidated terrorist watchlist to house information on known or suspected terrorists (KSTs) but has evolved over the last decade to include additional individuals who represent a potential threat to the United States, including known affiliates of watchlisted individuals.
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.