The White House on Monday said encounters with suspected terrorists at the US Southern Border are “uncommon,” after 23 individuals on the terror watchlist were apprehended in 2021.
Fox News first reported on Monday that US Border Patrol apprehended at least 23 people coming across the southern border whose names were on the terror watchlist in 2021, according to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data.
BORDER PATROL STOPPED 23 PEOPLE ON TERRORIST DATABASE AT SOUTHERN BORDER IN 2021: CBP DATA
Between Jan. 20 and Dec. 27, 2021, there were 23 encounters with individuals whose names matched on the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB).
Four were in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, 4 in Del Rio Sector, 3 in El Paso Sector, 2 in Tucson Sector, 2 in Yuma Sector, 4 in El Centro Sector and 4 in San Diego Sector. The information was provided to Fox News in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted in December.
When asked for reaction from the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday said the data “means the Border Patrol was doing their job.”
“I mean, they apprehended people at the border,” Psaki said.
Psaki said that “suspected terrorists attempting to cross the Southern Border” are “very uncommon.”
“We’re talking about a few dozen annual encounters at most— at most,” Psaki said, adding that the encounters represent “significantly less than one percent.”
“I note these individuals, these 23 people, the border patrol, they stopped them,” Psaki said. “They prevented them from getting into the country.”
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Psaki added: “They’re protecting our homeland and keeping us safe.”
When pressed for a reaction from President Biden, Psaki said the president is “grateful to the Border Patrol for doing their job and and stopping these people and preventing them from getting into the country.”
The Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) contains information about the identities of those who are known or “reasonably suspected” of being involved in terrorist activities. Republicans lawmakers have repeatedly called for the number of those encountered at the border to be made public by the administration.
Fox News reported earlier this month that over 62,000 illegal immigrants evaded Border Patrol agents in March, averaging about 2,000 a day.
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The numbers come as the Biden administration is yet again facing sky-high border numbers that are overwhelming agents and resources. According to a filing by CBP last week, agents encountered more than 212,000 migrants at the border in March, higher than any month last year.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw and Bill Melugin contributed to this report.