Luck Is Not an Effective Border Control Policy


September 12, 2023

By Tom Homan and Matt O’Brien

CNN recently ran a piece titled, “Exclusive: Smuggler With Ties to ISIS Helped Migrants Enter from Mexico, Raising Alarm Bells Across Government.” In reality, that title should read, “Biden Administration Got Lucky When Terrorists Snuck Over Border.”

According to CNN, “Earlier this year, a cohort of migrants from Uzbekistan requested asylum and were screened by the Department of Homeland Security.” CNN continues, “There was no information in any of the intelligence community’s databases that raised any red flags and the people were all released into the U.S. pending a court date.”

But, when the FBI determined that the group had been taken over the border by a smuggler with ties to ISIS, the government sprang into action protecting the American people. Crisis averted, nothing to see here, please move along now.

But was this really a success? No. In fact this incident presents irrefutable evidence of just how dangerous Joe Biden’s “let everybody in now and ask questions later” approach to border security really is. Good vetting takes place before an alien is admitted to the U.S. Its fundamental purpose is determining who the bad guys are, so you know who to let in and who to keep out. As usual, however, Team Biden got it backwards. Whatever vetting took place here happened after the threat had already been let into the U.S.

And all of the laudatory comments are simply part of an attempt by Biden Administration officials to get ahead of this situation, just in case a terrorist plot later develops. In fact, CNN admits as much, stating that, “For some Biden Administration officials, the episode is an example of the system working as it should: intelligence came to light about a particular group of migrants and the U.S. responded with an investigation determining that they did not pose a threat.” And yet, to date, nobody knows who any of these individuals really are. If that concerns you, good, it should.

According to the most recent edition of the U.S. Department of State’s Country Reports on Terrorism: Uzbekistan, there continue to be terrorism and violent extremism concerns associated with the country and significant numbers of Uzbek men went to Syria and Iraq to fight on behalf of ISIS. That shouldn’t be news to Biden Administration national security wonks.

This incident presents irrefutable evidence of just how dangerous Joe Biden’s “let everybody in now and ask questions later” approach to border security really is.

The United States has already been the victim of at least one terror attack perpetrated by an Uzbek national. On October 31, 2017, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov deliberately drove a pickup truck into group of cyclists on the Hudson River Park Bike Path in New York City, killing eight and injuring eleven. That attack prompted the Trump White House to consider adding Uzbekistan to its list of terror-affiliated countries subject to travel restrictions.

Therefore, in a rational world, CBP would – now and for the foreseeable future – deny admission to any group of Uzbek men that showed up at the border without visas and proper travel documents. Or, at the very least, they would be permitted to enter the U.S. only after stringent vetting had been completed.

But that isn’t what happened here. In this case, the Biden Administration got caught with its pants down and had no idea it had a serious problem until the FBI was tipped off to the existence of the ISIS-affiliated smuggling ring. And, to complicate matters, neither CBP nor the FBI currently has any idea where to find most of the people smuggled into the U.S. by this individual with ties to ISIS.

But that’s not even the worst aspect of this defeat that the White House insists on selling as a victory. This was one incident, involving around a dozen people who must now be considered a significant terrorist risk. But how many ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram or Hezbollah-linked smuggling networks have border authorities missed?

According to the Center for Immigration Studies, as of April 17, Biden had released just over two million southern border migrants into the U.S. And, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, as of October 25, 2022 close to six million aliens had crossed our border illegally. That’s about eight million people or the rough equivalent of the population of New York City.

Most of those people have not been properly vetted and never will be. Illegal aliens aren’t screened against any databases unless they are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). And foreigners who pass through ports-of-entry or surrender to the Border Patrol are run against U.S. databases, but they often hail from countries that don’t share law enforcement or national security information with the U.S. So, we have no way of seeing whether their home country has any derogatory information on them.

What does all that mean? There is a massive tide of humanity currently making its way into the U.S. Inevitably, a certain percentage of that human tidal wave will consist of foreign intelligence operatives and terrorists. Which is why the Immigration and Nationality Act gives DHS broad powers to deport foreigners who present threats to our public safety.

Ultimately, border security is national security. The Biden Administration can continue to misrepresent sheer luck as effective immigration enforcement. But the reality is that if it continues to do nothing to secure our porous southern border, it is only a matter of time until its luck runs out and the U.S. winds up facing another large-scale terrorist attack. And given the large number of un-vetted foreigners currently at liberty in the U.S., the next one may make the September 11, 2001 attacks look like amateur hour.

Tom Homan is a senior fellow at the Immigration Reform Law Institute and the former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Matt O’Brien is the Director of Investigations at the Immigration Reform Law Institute and the co-host of IRLI’s podcast “No Border, No Country.” Immediately prior to working for IRLI he served as an immigration judge.

Also published at The Washington Times, September 12, 2023.

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