EXCLUSIVE: Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee are calling on the Department of Homeland Security to reveal how many migrants apprehended at the border have been identified within a terror watch list — arguing that Americans should be informed of the number.
“Although most of the information on this topic is rightfully classified, the number of known or suspected terrorists attempting to illegally cross into the United States is not kept secret in the interest of national security and the American people deserve to be informed of this number,” the letter from Reps. John Katko, R-NY, August Pfluger, R-Texas and Clay Higgins, R-La., to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.
The concern about who is trying to enter the U.S. has grown as an increasing number of migrants, including from countries across the globe, try to enter the U.S. There were more than 188,000 migrant encounters in June, and that number is expected to rise to more than 210,000 for July.
In March, Fox News reported that at least four migrants whose names match those on the terror watch list had been picked up by U.S. Border Patrol since the beginning of the fiscal year.
The congressmen said that in a recent trip to El Paso, “it was brought to our attention that recently apprehended individuals had been registered on the terrorist watchlist.”
The Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) contains information about the identities of those who are “known or reasonably suspected” of being involved in terrorist activities. The lawmakers said they received the number of migrants identified on the TSDB at a classified briefing and now want that number released to the public.
The lawmakers said they are not looking for classified details to be released, such as personally identifiable information, but believed a number of apprehensions would not hurt national security. They also argued that as recently as January that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was releasing the information to the public.
“We fully understand and support that the safety of our nation is dependent upon classified information remaining classified,” they say. “However, I think we can all agree that a statistic — a simple, topline number — made public by itself does not in any way encumber law enforcement from pursuing the individuals beneath those statistics.
They request that the numbers are immediately released and that the statistic be provided regularly in conjunction with other border numbers.
The letter comes amid greater calls from Republicans for transparency from the Biden administration on the issue of migration and border security. On Monday, 20 Republicans wrote to Mayorkas demanding detailed documents and statistics related to the Biden administration’s handling of the crisis at the southern border – and threatened a resolution of inquiry if the request is ignored.