Only six immigrants in terrorism database stopped by CBP at southern border in first half of 2018

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By Julia Ainsley  with NBC News Politics
Image: Migrants looks for a place to jump over the border fence to enter th
Migrants looks for a place to jump over the border fence to enter the United States from Tijuana, Mexico, on Dec. 29, 2018.   -   Copyright  Daniel Ochoa de Olza AP file

U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered only six immigrants 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 obtained by NBC News.

The low number contradicts statements by Trump administration officials, including White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders who said Friday that CBP stopped nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists from crossing the southern border in fiscal year 2018.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen told reporters on Monday the exact number, which NBC News is first to report, was classified but that she was working on making it public.

Overall, 41 people on the Terrorist Screening Database were encountered at the southern border from Oct. 1, 2017 through 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 from the database, including 41 who were not American citizens or residents.

The White House has used the 4,000 figure to make its case for building a wall on the southwest border and for closing the government until Congress funds it. They have also threatened to call a national emergency in order to get over $5 billion in funding for the wall.