Investigative Group

EXCLUSIVE: Border Patrol Released More Than 30,000 Illegal Migrants Flagged As Security Risks In Last 15 Months

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Jennie Taer Investigative Reporter
Font Size:

Border Patrol agents released more than 30,000 migrants who crossed the southern border deemed potential national security risks in the last 15 months, according to internal Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data obtained exclusively by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Border Patrol recorded 20,287 encounters of Special Interest Aliens (SIAs) in fiscal year 2023 and 12,114 so far in fiscal year 2024 at the southern border that were given future court dates, according to the internal data. Border Patrol encounters of SIAs jumped 600% from fiscal year 2021 with 3,675 encounters to fiscal year 2022 with 25,627 encounters, according to internal CBP data the DCNF obtained in October 2022.

Individuals are considered SIAs if they frequently travel in areas with terrorism or other types of “nefarious activity,” according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). SIAs can also include individuals who “possibly have a nexus to terrorism,” according to a 2019 DHS fact sheet.

The top nationalities encountered in the SIA category for fiscal year 2023 were Turkey, Russia, Afghanistan and Somalia, according to the data. Since October, the start of fiscal year 2024, the top nationalities included Turkey, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Russia. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Terrorist Caught Illegally Crossing The Border Was Allowed To Roam Free For Nearly A Year, Memo Says)

Internal CBP data on Special Interest Aliens released in fiscal year 2023

Internal CBP data on Special Interest Aliens released in fiscal year 2024

“Even I was surprised. It worries me, depresses me, infuriates me, frustrates me,” a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official told the DCNF about the spike in SIA encounters in recent years.

Turkish smugglers, for example, have been operating lucrative smuggling rings on Telegram, helping SIAs get to and across the southern border, according to a recent DCNF review of Telegram and TikTok posts.

Border Patrol caught 172 individuals on the terrorist watchlist attempting to enter the United States illegally in fiscal year 2023.  From October through December, Border Patrol recorded 50 encounters of individuals on the terrorist watchlist, according to federal data.

Agents also recorded 98 encounters of terror watch listed individuals in fiscal year 2022 and 16 in fiscal year 2021, according to the data.

DHS didn’t immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact