Posts misrepresent border encounters with people on terror watchlist – The Associated Press – en Español

CLAIM: At least 98 people on the terrorist watchlist have crossed the border into the U.S. in fiscal year 2022.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: Missing context. While the U.S. Border Patrol has reported 98 encounters with people on the U.S. government’s terrorist watchlist along the southwest border, those individuals were stopped by border agents, and did not escape into the U.S.
THE FACTS: Several Republican elected officials have suggested in recent social media posts that almost 100 people on the terrorist watchlist have entered the U.S. along the southwest border.
“FACT: at least 98 terrorism suspects illegally crossed our border in the last 12 months,” House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy wrote Saturday on Facebook. “Biden’s open border is a national security threat.”
“98 people on the terrorist watchlist crossed the border into the U.S. in FY22 — that we know of,” GOP Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn wrote on Monday, in a tweet shared more than 1,900 times. “That is nearly 4 times higher than the last five years combined.”
The claims are misleading, experts say. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection did report 98 Border Patrol encounters with non-U.S. citizens on the watchlist who crossed the southwest border between U.S. ports of entry in fiscal year 2022. But every person counted as part of that 98-encounter tally was stopped and detained by Border Patrol, and that figure could include people who crossed multiple times.
“To say that 98 terrorists made it into the U.S. is an exaggeration,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor at Cornell University who teaches immigration law. “These 98 were all caught.”
“They were likely all detained by CBP,” Denise Gilman, co-director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “It is hard to imagine a situation where CBP would just release a person on the watchlist.”
“As is true for all new CBP numbers reported, encounters do not equal different individuals,” Ernesto Castañeda, director of the Immigration Lab at American University, wrote in an email to the AP. “If a person is in the list but there are no charges or apprehension orders, the person can be denied entry and try to enter again later on.”
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson referred the AP to the agency’s published enforcement statistics for fiscal year 2022. The website states that watchlisted individuals encountered by Border Patrol after entering the U.S. “without inspection” may be detained and removed, or handed off to “another government agency for subsequent detention or law enforcement action.”
“They can call the FBI, or they can transfer the person to somewhere else. Or they can simply deny entry,” said Thomas Warrick, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and the former deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, referring to how Border Patrol can handle people who are on the watchlist. “They’re not supposed to just let them go.”
The CBP website notes that “encounters of watchlisted individuals at our borders are very uncommon” and that the 98 encounters of people on the watchlist make up 0.0044% of all fiscal 2022 Border Patrol encounters.
When asked to provide evidence for Blackburn’s claim, her spokesperson, Spencer Hurwitz, wrote in an email to the AP, “This is publicly available information that has been published by the government and reported upon by numerous media outlets.”
In an email to the AP, Mark Bednar, a spokesperson for McCarthy, cited the CBP statistics and wrote, “These are non-U.S. citizens who are apprehended in the U.S. at or near the border by the border patrol whose names are on the terror watchlist.”
The CBP website refers to the watchlist as the “Terrorist Screening Dataset,” which it describes as the “U.S. government’s database that contains sensitive information on terrorist identities.” Beyond known or suspected terrorists, the list has evolved to include “additional individuals who represent a potential threat to the United States, including known affiliates of watchlisted individuals.”
“The mere fact that someone’s name is included in the watchlist does not necessarily mean that they are actually a terrorist,” Warrick said. “The watchlist is, not surprisingly, broader — and in some cases considerably broader — than the number of actual terrorists at large in the world.”
The 98 encounters of individuals on the watchlist make up a sliver of all encounters reported by border officials. According to CBP figures, in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, migrants were stopped 2.38 million times, up 37% from 1.73 million times the year before, the AP reported. The annual total surpassed 2 million for the first time in August and is more than twice the highest level during Donald Trump’s presidency in 2019.
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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.

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