While the Biden administration has wrung its hands over the threat of domestic terrorism, record numbers of illegal immigrants whose names appear on the terror watchlist have flooded across the southern border since he took office.

The Biden administration has worked to crack down on domestic terrorism since taking office in 2021, launching internal reviews, issuing warnings about possible domestic extremist violence and painting the threat as one of the most acute security risks the U.S. faces today. According to multiple recent reports, former federal officials and government data, potential terrorists may be taking advantage of the Biden administration’s lax enforcement of immigration laws and the disorder along America’s borders to slip into the homeland.

In 2021 alone, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued two advisories specifically addressing possible threats from extremists seeking to interfere with the presidential transition and the administration of government duties following January 6. However, the agency has not raised the alarm after information and news reports surfaced in recent weeks to suggest potential terrorists have entered the U.S.

For example, hundreds of people crossed the border with the help of an ISIS-linked smuggling ring, including at least 50 whose whereabouts are unknown to authorities, according to NBC News. More broadly, federal data demonstrates that encounters with terror-watchlisted individuals have increased by an order of magnitude in the years since the Biden administration assumed office.

“DHS’ own data exposes the reality that an open border is an invitation for national security threats and terrorists. You’ve had over 350 suspected terrorists cross the southern border under the Biden administration,” Rob Law, the former chief of policy at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “There were about 14 during the entire Trump term. That’s not a coincidence.”

“Unquestionably, we are at the most risk for a terrorist attack at any time since 9/11, and that’s because you have no deterrence policies when it comes to immigration and border security,” Law, who now works as the director of the America First Policy Institute’s Center for Homeland Security and Immigration, added.

Federal agents apprehended more illegal immigrants whose names show up on the terror watchlist between October 2023 and January 2024 than they did in total between fiscal years 2017 and 2020. As of February, law enforcement agents had released at least 30,000 “Special Interest Aliens” — migrants from certain countries who are considered potential national security risks — over the preceding 15 months. For context, DHS reported about 3,000 such encounters in 2018, for example.

There were approximately 286 encounters with individuals whose names are on the federal terror database at the northern and southern borders between fiscal years 2021 and 2023, with another 91 encounters recorded so far in fiscal year 2024, according to Customs and Border Patrol data. A total of 14 such encounters are on record between fiscal years 2017 and 2020.

Moreover, there were approximately 1.7 million known gotaways who crossed the border as of December 2023, according to the House Homeland Security Committee.

Federal authorities arrested eight men from Tajikistan earlier in June in coordinated raids across the U.S. after becoming aware that the individuals had connections to the Islamic State, a jihadist group known more commonly as ISIS, as first reported by the New York Post. At least one of the eight individuals crossed into the U.S. through a port of entry using the CBP One app, which the Biden administration has developed and used as a tool to try to bring some order to the situation at the border.

Late Tuesday, NBC News reported that an ISIS-linked smuggling network helped facilitate the entry of over 400 people across the border into the U.S. It is unclear whether these individuals are connected to terrorist organizations, but federal authorities have so far only managed to apprehend about 150 of the 400 crossers while the locations of more than 50 of these crossers reportedly remain unknown.

Moreover, a member of the Somalian jihadist outfit al-Shabaab crossed the southern border into the U.S. in March 2023 and remained in the interior until he was picked up by federal authorities in Minneapolis in January of this year.


FBI Director Christopher Wray specifically described “the potential for a coordinated attack here in the homeland, akin to the ISIS-K attack we saw at the Russia Concert Hall” as “increasingly concerning” during April testimony in front of Congress.

“Our borders are more vulnerable than they were prior to 9/11, and it’s not if or when the terrorism threat comes to our border. We already know it is,” Mark Morgan, former acting commissioner for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told the DCNF. “The issue is not if or when, it’s already happened.”

Despite these developments, DHS has no active advisories on its National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) dashboard. The agency has moved away from using NTAS as the top channel for sharing information about possible terror risks, and now uses its Homeland Threat Assessment (HTA) as the “primary mechanism” for issuing updates, a DHS spokesperson told the DCNF.

The most recent HTA was released in September 2023, months before several specific reports emerged to suggest that potential terrorists have slipped into the U.S.

“DHS conducts screening and vetting on individuals encountered at the border to identify national security or public safety threats and takes appropriate action, to include preventing an individual from entering the country,” the DHS spokesperson told the DCNF.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas defended DHS’ approach, claiming that authorities vet crossers thoroughly enough to determine whether an individual is a potential national security risk. However, the DHS Office of the Inspector General concluded earlier in June that federal authorities are not properly vetting the millions of noncitizens entering and living in the U.S., and that suspected terrorists may be slipping by.

“What [Mayorkas] doesn’t tell the American people is the truth, that our vetting sucks. It’s a fallacy. It’s a false narrative, because the overwhelming majority of people that we come in contact with we have no idea who they actually are,” Morgan told the DCNF.

The agency “has consistently noted that the U.S. continues to be in a heightened threat environment, as detailed in our 2024 Homeland Threat Assessment, released in September 2023, and in regular updates to the public, law enforcement and other partners in the months since,” the DHS spokesperson added.

DHS has warned of threats posed by foreign terrorists in the past, but consistently mentions those groups alongside domestic violent extremists.

“In the coming months, factors that could mobilize individuals to commit violence include their perceptions of the 2024 general election cycle and legislative or judicial decisions pertaining to sociopolitical issues,” reads one advisory posted to the NTAS dashboard in May. The agency warned that possible targets could include the LGBT community, minorities and government personnel.

That particular advisory warned that “both domestic violent extremists and those associated with foreign terrorist organizations” are trying to get followers to conduct attacks inside America.

While domestic terror attacks have taken place in the U.S. in recent years, those incidents likely claimed fewer American lives between 2010 and 2021 than lightning strikes over the same period of time, according to a June 2023 report by the Government Accountability Office.

A November 2022 bulletin warned that “domestic actors and foreign terrorist organizations continue to maintain a visible presence online in attempts to motivate supporters to conduct attacks” in the U.S. At the time, DHS warned that possible attacks could occur in relation to events like election certifications and the anniversary of January 6.

“By the way, the National Threat Advisory System is supposed to be devoid of politics. But in my opinion, previous advisories that they sent out were driven purely by politics. And now, when we have the facts to actually justify a legitimate threat advisory going out to the American people with respect to the national security threat posed by our borders, they remain silent,” Morgan told the DCNF. “And of course they are, because we’re about four months out from the presidential election.”

The administration’s decision to so far refrain from issuing a terror advisory in response to specific reports about potential jihadists inside the homeland contrasts with the urgency of prior warnings about domestic extremism.

Domestic violent extremists “motivated by a range of issues, including anger over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results, and police use of force have plotted and on occasion carried out attacks against government facilities,” DHS warned in a NTAS advisory issued in January 2021. At the time, the agency added that January 6 could inspire potential domestic extremists.

The Biden administration more broadly conducted a 100-day review of federal efforts to address domestic extremism, an initiative that President Joe Biden launched on his first full day in office in 2021. In June 2021, the White House described domestic extremism as “the most urgent terrorism threat the United States faces today.”

DHS also launched an internal review in April 2021 to identify any potential domestic extremists within its own ranks.

“Domestic violent extremism poses the most lethal and persistent terrorism-related threat to our country today,” Mayorkas said at the time.

Similarly, the Pentagon also kicked off an internal domestic extremism review in April 2021. The study detailing the review’s findings indicated that the Department of Defense had failed to understand domestic extremism and may have actually made the issue worse than it would otherwise be, potentially damaging cohesion in the process.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

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