Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas told senators that there were over 600,000 “gotaways” at the southern border in 2023.
Gotaways are illegal immigrants who manage to avoid Border Patrol agents but are later spotted by another sort of monitoring.
At a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing, Republican Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas asked CBP Commissioner Alejandro Mayorkas about the number of gotaways CBP has encountered in 2023.
Mayorkas informed the Senator that the belief is that well over 600,000 people have evaded detection and sneaked over the southern border. Mayorkas said that this problem of gotaways has plagued DHS for decades.
The rush of illegal immigrants eluding Border Patrol authorities at the southern border has raised concerns among Republican senators about threats to national security and public safety. Officials claim the war between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East has increased the threat of terrorism in the United States, and over a half million unknowns illegally jumping our border is alarming.
The record number of interactions with migrants in a single fiscal year was broken in fiscal 2023. The number of migrants encountered by CBP at the southern border exceeded 2.4 million in 2023, with a record-breaking 269,000 in September alone. Fox reports that in fiscal year 2023, CBP let more than 900,000 migrants into the country after screening them.
Between ports of entry in fiscal 2023, Border Patrol agents saw a spike in interactions with people on the terror watch list, or Terrorist Screening Dataset, as it is now formally named. The identities of terrorists, both confirmed and suspected, as well as those of those associated with those on the watch list, are documented there.
According to DHS’s 2024 threat assessment, agents are running into more people on the terrorist watch list. Worries that terrorists and criminals will take advantage of the increased flow and more complex security environment to reach the United States were also emphasized in the evaluation.
A DHS spokeswoman said this week that the United States is still in a heightened threat environment in light of the war between Israel and Hamas.
Republicans argue that the government has exacerbated the situation by halting Trump-era policies like border wall building and the Remain-in-Mexico policy and by boosting releases into the United States.