Probably No Terrorists Were Stopped at the Southern Border Last Year, and Trump Knows It

President Trump five days ago:

[In 2017] over 3,700 known or suspected terrorists tried to enter into this country…at the southern border because there’s no wall, there’s no physical barrier. There’s no way to actually control ports of entry…..It’s a problem of national security. It’s a problem of terrorists….We have terrorists coming through the southern border because they find that’s probably the easiest place to come through. They drive right in and they make a left.

And here is NBC News reporting information that the Trump administration submitted to Congress last summer:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered only six immigrants at ports of entry on the U.S-Mexico border in the first half of fiscal year 2018 whose names were on a federal government list of known or suspected terrorists, according to CBP data provided to Congress in May 2018 and obtained by NBC News.

….Overall, 41 people on the Terrorist Screening Database were encountered at the southern border from Oct. 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018, but 35 of them were U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Six were classified as non-U.S. persons. On the northern border, CBP stopped 91 people listed in the database, including 41 who were not American citizens or residents.

Six. And this is merely people who were on a watchlist. Given what we know about the terrorist watchlist, this means the most likely number of real threats stopped at the southern border was zero or one.

But it gets worse. These were people stopped at legal ports of entry, so a wall obviously wouldn’t have affected them anyway. Apparently the Border Patrol stopped five people between ports of entry, but we don’t know how many of them were trying to sneak across the southern border vs. the northern border. One or two? Of which, probably none were genuine threats.

In other words, a wall most likely would have stopped no terrorists at all. Maybe a couple if we’re being generous.

Eventually Sarah Sanders is going to have to fess up to this instead of droning on about “three thousand” terrorists, nearly all of whom were stopped at airports. But I’m not sure I even care. At this point, anything officially released by the White House should simply be considered a lie unless it’s confirmed with someone reliable.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend