The White House on Monday defended the Department of Homeland Security's tracking of terrorists who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, saying its efforts mean "the system is working."

The head of the department, Alejandro Mayorkas, has come under fire in recent days for forming a Disinformation Governance Board and for the fact that 42 individuals who were on the terrorist screening list were encountered at the border. Mayorkas told Fox News the Biden administration has a "handle on it."


A reporter grilled White House press secretary Jen Psaki about the issue Monday.

"The DHS secretary is now talking about people on the terrorist watch list crossing the border to the U.S., and he says, 'We know where those 42 are,'" said Fox News's Peter Doocy. "Why isn't he saying, 'We know where those 42 are — they're in jail'?"

Psaki pointed back to Mayorkas's previous comments and defended the agency.

"As we noted just a couple of weeks ago when there was reporting about the number of individuals who are on the watch list being stopped at the border, that was the Border Patrol doing their jobs," she said. "That was the system working, and certainly, a part of the role of the DHS is to keep our country safe, [to] keep the American people safe."

Mayorkas said Sunday that the 42 individuals on the watch list can be removed, placed in custody for criminal prosecution, or could be cooperating in a law enforcement investigation. He declined to go into specifics, saying the information is "law enforcement sensitive."

Doocy mentioned during the White House press briefing that it took just 19 people to carry out the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and wondered aloud what 42 people might be capable of.


"The No. 1 job of the president of the United States, the vice president, certainly, [and] the secretary of homeland security is to keep the American people safe," Psaki said. "And I think a lot of this reporting you're referencing is an indication that they are doing their jobs and doing exactly that."