Border Patrol Chief Warns of ‘National Security Threat’ from Migrant Crisis Citing 140,000 Uncaught Migrants

By: Georgia | Published: Mar 25, 2024

U.S. Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens has raised concerns about the southern border, describing it as a “national security threat.”

In his discussion, he highlighted the challenges faced by the Border Patrol, including the significant number of migrants who have managed to evade capture. Specifically, Owens cited a figure of 140,000 migrants as particularly alarming, underscoring the magnitude of the situation at the border.

Smugglers Taking Control

In an interview with CBS, Owens expressed concern over how smugglers are effectively dictating the movement of migrants across the border. 

A group of people seated closely together in the dimly lit back of a cargo truck

Source: USBPChief/X

He stated, “They dictate what the flow is going to look like and we respond to it.” This admission points to the strategic difficulties faced by border enforcement in countering the operations of smuggling networks.


The Struggle to Secure the Border

Owens elaborated on the efforts to counteract smuggling operations, saying, “We try and get out in front of it and deny them the ability to use these areas.”

A view through a tall, vertical metal fence with a smaller chain-link fence at the bottom, both featuring barbed wire at the top. Silhouetted figures of people can be seen on the other side of the barrier

Source: Wikimedia Commons

He also mentioned the vastness of the challenge, with over 1,900 miles of border to monitor and secure against illegal crossings and activities, highlighting the logistical and tactical difficulties involved.

Record Numbers and the Asylum Challenge

Under the current administration, there has been an unprecedented influx of migrants at the southern border.

A crowded room filled with individuals sitting on the floor, with blurred faces to protect their privacy

Source: USBPChief/X

Owens pointed out that thousands of these migrants claim asylum and are subsequently released into the country, contributing to the complexity of the border security challenge and raising questions about the management and processing of such claims.

Concerns Beyond the Numbers

Despite reporting over a million encounters at the southern border in the fiscal year, Owens is particularly troubled by the “140,000 known got-aways.”

A close-up image focusing on the embroidered patch of the U.S. Border Patrol on the sleeve of an officer's uniform, with the insignia clearly visible

Source: USBPChief/X

He stressed the significance of this figure, not just for its size but for the unknowns it represents in terms of national security, stating, “That is a national security threat.”

The Unknown Threats

Owens emphasized the importance of knowing who is entering the country, expressing concern over the potential for terrorists and other dangerous individuals to slip through.

Several people clandestinely concealed within a dark, cramped vehicle compartment


He said, “If we don’t know who is coming into our country, and we don’t know what their intent is, that is a threat.”


The Majority Are Not a Threat

Despite the focus on security threats, Owens noted that most encounters at the border involve individuals surrendering themselves, often fleeing dire economic situations.

A man kneeling on the ground outdoors is seen from behind, his hands clasped behind his head which is covered with a black cap. He is wearing a long-sleeved grey shirt and is surrounded by natural foliage

Source: USBPChief/X

He clarified, “[That] doesn’t make them bad people,” but highlighted the issue of respect for U.S. laws.


Hidden Dangers

Among the vast majority of migrants, there are those with criminal backgrounds, including convicted predators and gang members.

A close-up from behind of an individual with hands placed against a vehicle for a search, with a U.S. Border Patrol officer in partial view

Source: USBPChief/X

Owens explained that although they represent a small fraction of the total, their presence is a cause for concern and demonstrates the risks associated with unregulated border crossings.


A Global Challenge

The diversity of the migrant population, coming from “160 countries or more,” reflects the global dimensions of the crisis.

A person emerges from a circular concrete tunnel entrance, gripping a metal rung with hands covered in dirt

Source: USBPChief/X

Owens attributes this wide-ranging demographic to the activities of various smuggling organizations, further complicating the U.S. border security efforts.


Border Security as a Political Hot Topic

As the presidential election approaches, border security remains a contentious issue among voters.

A line of people sitting on the ground leaning against a wooden wall, with their faces blurred for privacy

Source: USBPChief/X

The topic has been featured prominently in polls, indicating its importance to the American electorate and its impact on political discourse and policy-making.


The Biden Administration’s Response

President Joe Biden has attempted to address border security issues, particularly criticizing Republicans for obstructing a bipartisan Senate deal aimed at tackling the crisis.

In the foreground, the President of the United States is captured mid-speech, standing at a podium with an American flag in the background. The focus is on him, with the Vice President slightly out of focus, standing behind and clapping

Source: POTUS/X

This political maneuvering reflects the ongoing debate over the best approach to securing the border and managing immigration.


Advocating for Stricter Penalties

Owens suggests that implementing more stringent penalties for illegal crossings could help mitigate the crisis. 

Three U.S. Border Patrol agents in green uniforms are standing near all-terrain vehicles in a desert-like environment, with mountains in the background. In front of them, a group of individuals are seated on the ground

Source: USBPChief/X

He said, I’m talking about jail time. I’m talking about being removed from the country and I’m talking about being banned from being able to come back because you chose to come in the illegal way instead of the established lawful pathways that we set for you.