The Biden administration has overwhelmed our asylum system by releasing more than a million illegal border crossers into the country to apply for asylum. As of the end of January 2023, the immigration court had a backlog of 2,097,244 cases, and a major increase in illegal crossings is expected in May when the Title 42 order is terminated.

This isn’t just a problem for our asylum system: It also presents national security issues.

For instance, the Border Patrol is apprehending more illegal crossers who are on the terrorist watchlist, which has information about people suspected of being involved in terrorism or related activities.
INA section 212(a)(3) makes a migrant inadmissible if there is a reasonable ground to believe that he or she has engaged in — or is likely to engage in — terrorist activity. This may not apply to every migrant found to be on the watchlist.
Alex Nowrasteh, a CATO Institute policy scholar, thinks that politicians are inflating the risk that terrorists will enter the U.S. by making an illegal entry across the Southwest border. He claims that zero people have been killed or injured in the U.S. by terrorists who crossed the Southwest border illegally.

Sept. 11, 2001, proved that foreign terrorists can be very resourceful, and there has been a substantial increase in attempts to cross the Southwest border illegally by migrants the government suspects of being involved in terrorism or related activities.

Increase in illegal crossers on the watchlist

The Border Patrol apprehended 11 illegal border crossers who were on the watchlist during the four years of the previous administration. That number rose to 15 in fiscal 2021, which was the first fiscal year of the current administration. It reached 98 in 2022, and it has reached 80 already in the first months of fiscal 2023.

Before Sept. 11, the intelligence community was very focused on foreign threats, not on domestic threats. Moreover, there were several different terrorism watchlists, which made it difficult to share information. The Terrorist Screening Center has consolidated watchlist data into a single federal terrorism watchlist.

Does the Border Patrol always check the watchlist?

The DHS Inspector General (IG) did an audit on the Border Patrol to determine the extent to which it screens illegal crossers to prevent criminals, drug traffickers, and individuals on the terrorist watchlist from entering the United States.


Published originally on the Hill.
Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an Executive Branch Immigration Law Expert for three years. He subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. Follow him at: