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Northern border continues to outpace southwest border on terrorist-connected apprehensions

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Not only has the number of known or suspected terrorists (KSTs) apprehended at the U.S. borders in fiscal 2023 the greatest number recorded in U.S. history, but those coming in via the northern border are outpacing numbers at the southern border. The Center Square first reported there were 736 known or suspected terrorists (KSTs) apprehended at the northern and southwest borders, with a significant majority – 66% – apprehended at the northern border, 487. By comparison, 249 were apprehended at the southwest border.

Unfortunately, the trend has continued on in fiscal 2024, with KST northern border apprehensions outpacing those at the southwest border by a similar margin. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, last updated on January 26, there have been 144 KSTs apprehended this fiscal year to date.

The majority, 90, were apprehended at the northern border, nearly all at northern border ports of entry. The Center Square notes KSTs are primarily apprehended two different ways by two different federal agents. They are apprehended by Office of Field Operations (OFO) agents working at land ports of entry and by Border Patrol agents working between ports of entry.

At the northern border, the majority of KSTs are apprehended at northern border ports of entry, at the southwest border, the majority are apprehended between ports of entry, according to CBP data.

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.

The higher number of northern border KST apprehensions continues as agents working in the busiest northern border CBP sector apprehended more illegal border crossers in fiscal 2023 than they had in the previous 11 years combined.

Swanton Sector Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 6,700 foreign nationals from 76 countries attempting to enter the U.S. illegally from Canada, a 550% increase in apprehensions from fiscal 2022. The sector spans 295 miles of border in northeastern New York, Vermont and New Hampshire.

The U.S.-Canada border is the longest international border in the world of 5,525 miles. Unlike the U.S.-Mexico border, there are no border walls or similar barriers separating the U.S. from Canada. Most of the northern border is demarcated by rivers, lakes, mountains, ravines and forests. While many miles of the remote northern border remain unpatrolled due to a number of factors, agents at ports of entry consistently apprehend the most KSTs.

KST apprehensions there continue to increase after U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, sounded the alarm last fall, saying, “It is painfully clear that with Joe Biden’s open border policies, our country is really at an increased threat for a terrorist attack.”

Barrasso did so on the same day FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the Senate about terrorist threats facing Americans. Wray said the FBI was conducting multiple investigations into Hamas-related threats in the U.S. after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

He also expressed concern about “The world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, the Iranians, for instance, have directly, or by hiring criminals, mounted assassination attempts against dissidents and high-ranking current and former U.S. government officials, including right here on American soil.”

More than a month after he spoke, northern border agents apprehended an Iranian with terrorist ties. Retired FBI officials also warned Congress last week that a terrorist attack was likely imminent and preventable.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., who posted a copy of their letter on X, said it “describes the chilling reality of why the president’s open border is a clear and present danger to America.”

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Canadian-U.S. border illegal crossings up 240% over previous year

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The vulnerability of the northern border of the United States is being weaponized in the war on illegal migration. 2023 saw a 240% increase of individuals apprehended from just one year prior. Not only is the border with Canada significantly longer than its border with Mexico, but its ports of entry are often understaffed while the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is forced to prioritize the southern surge.

According to recent data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in 2023 authorities halted over 12,000 migrants attempting illegal crossings at the Canadian border. The number is a 240% increase from the preceding year when 3,579 individuals were apprehended.

ADN America reports that approximately 70% of the illegal crossings took place along a 295-mile stretch along the northern New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire border called the Swanton Sector.

Chief patrol agent for the sector, Robert Garcia, posted on social media that the 3,100 individuals apprehended were from 55 different countries. 

Garcia wrote “the record-breaking surge of illegal entries from Canada continues in Swanton Sector” and he specifically mentioned that the arrest of 10 Bangladeshi citizens was prompted by a citizen’s report in Champlain, New York.

Surprisingly, ADN reports:

A significant number of those engaging in illegal crossings are Mexicans who exploit the opportunity to fly to Canada without a visa, also avoiding the presence of cartels in their home countries.

Experts suggest that migrants can purchase a $350 one-way plane ticket from Mexico City or Cancun to Montreal or Toronto. This route is perceived as offering a lower likelihood of being turned away compared to those crossing the southern border.

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