The number of Border Patrol arrests is expected to exceed last fiscal year’s record numbers, as sixteen people on the FBI’s terror watch list were stopped from entering the country illegally through the southern border.
This brings the total number of encounters for the 2023 fiscal year to 69, on track to surpass the 98 encounters made in the previous year.
As the country continues to struggle with illegal migrants risking their lives to cross onto American soil and drugs flooding in, Republicans are demanding answers for why the Biden administration is spending hundreds-of-thousands to store unused border wall panels.
Only eight terror watch-list arrests between ports of entry were made between 2017 and 2020, followed by 15 encounters in 2021.
CBP’s Officer of Field Operations have encountered 214 people on the Terrorist Screening Database (TSBD) so far across ports of entry at the northern and southern borders.
In 2022, there were 380 apprehensions, which is a significant increase from the 157 in 2021 and 196 in 2020.
These numbers have sparked fear about who might be trying to enter the U.S. and have become key in Republican arguments for better securing the border and greater action.
The numbers were released just hours after Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz testified to a House Homeland Security Committee hearing in McAllen, Texas, stating that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not have operational control of the border.
The White House pushed back against Republican criticism, accusing them of not approving border funding requests by the Biden administration, including a recent $5 billion request in December.
Republicans argue that it is policy, not funding, that is causing the increasing and persistent crisis.
Meanwhile, $130,000 per day is being spent on storing and maintaining unused border wall panels in the south instead of “fortifying the border with those materials.”
Republican members of the Senate Armed Forces Committee sent a letter to the Defense Department questioning the decision to sit on these materials.
The senators wrote that they “are disturbed to learn the Department of Defense is paying private landowners to store border wall materials.”
State lawmakers in Texas are also proposing legislation to help quell the southern border crisis.
Republicans in the Texas State legislature proposed a new law that would make it a state felony to illegally cross the border from Mexico, as they claim the federal government continues to ignore the crisis.
The law would also establish a “Border Protection Unit,” which would be a group of officers dedicated to arresting migrants who enter Texas at points of the border that are not an official port of entry.
Texas GOP State Senator Brian Birdwell introduced a bill to make it a crime in the state for people to bypass legal immigration channels and proceedings.
Separately, Texas GOP State Representative Matt Schaefer introduced a bill that is hoped to embolden officers with the newly formed Border Protection Unit to “arrest, detain, and deter individuals crossing the border illegally including with the use of non-deadly force.”
The bill also details that people arrested for crossing into Texas illegally could face 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines for each individual violation.
Texas has a Republican-controlled legislature and governor, making it likely that these laws will pass the House and Senate and go to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk for signature.
Lawmakers in D.C. and the court system in Florida are also attempting to put an end to Biden’s new parole program, which allows migrants to be swiftly released from Border Patrol custody into the U.S.