Ron DeSantis, Florida
Florida governor Ron DeSantis said that illegal immigrants could pose a threat to future terrorist attacks on the United States while speaking at an infrastructure event in Central Florida Cheney Orr/Via AFP/Getty Images

SEATTLE - Florida governor Ron DeSantis said that terrorist attacks on United States soil are bound to happen as a result of the millions of undocumented immigrants that continue to unlawfully the country's southern border each year.

Reports from the House Committee on Homeland Security say that between 2021 and February 2024 there have been nine million immigrant encounters all across the country. Out of those, 7.4 million occurred at the border between Mexico and the United States. That number does not include the 1.8 million of "gotaways" who were able to evade officers during the same period.

While speaking at a infrastructure event hosted at Umatilla's Caldwell Park Community Building in Central Florida, DeSantis made the suggestion that, given the figures, it is just a matter of time for terror attacks to happen in the country.

"You have an administration who won't faithfully execute the law," DeSantis said. "You've had 10, 11 million come in illegally since 2019. What are the odds...that there will end up being a terrorist attack as a result?' I think there will be," the Florida governor said.

"How could you have that many people and not have some people that are hostile? And when you talk about 10 million, you're saying if only, like, 0.1% are bad that's going to cause havoc. And we know there's obviously more problems than that. So I think from a security perspective, it's a big deal."

Border Patrol data from fiscal year 2023 shows 172 encounters of people whose names appeared on the federal government's official list of known or suspected terrorists and their associates, up from about 100 the previous year and 16 during 2021.

Since the 2024 fiscal year started in October, the Border Patrol agency has seen 81 encounters so far, and a recent investigation by NBC showed that the Department of Homeland Security identified over 400 migrants brought to the country by an ISIS-affiliated human smuggling network. Over 150 have been arrested but the whereabouts of over 50 remain unknown. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is seeking to arrest them on immigration charges.

But according to a study conducted by the Cato Institute, historical chances of this happening are slim.

In a span of almost five decades (1975 to 2023), a total of 230 foreign-born terrorists were responsible for 3,046 murders on American soil. Only nine of them entered the United States as illegal immigrants. According to the Cato Institute, the chances of a person dying in a terrorist attack committed by a foreigner on U.S. soil was 1 in 4.5 million per year.

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