May 22, 2023
By Matt O’Brien
Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas Recently gave a press conference claiming that border crossings had dropped 50% after Title 42 was lifted. He also continued insisting that America’s borders are secure. At the same time, however, San Diego County officials announced that Border Patrol had arrested an Afghan national in the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) near Otay Mesa.
The TSDB is colloquially known as the “terror watchlist.” It contains information on both known and suspected terrorists. Per Customs and Border Protection (CBP) year-to-date enforcement statistics for Fiscal Year 2023, there have been 80 apprehensions of watch-listed terror suspects along the border with Mexico since October 2022. This raises an obvious question that the Biden Administration seems bound and determined to ignore: “How many individuals listed in the TSDB have managed to elude the Border Patrol and enter the United States undetected?”
Some analysts downplay the risk of terrorists – jihadists in particular – joining the flow of border jumpers from Central and South America. If most foreign jihadis who have perpetrated terrorist acts in the U.S. entered lawfully, terrorists must be uninterested in entering the United States illegally. Of course, these conclusions are typically drawn by bean counters and talking heads who have no practical experience of any kind in immigration enforcement.
The inexperienced, chattering classes tend to base their inferences on things that have not happened. For example, prior to September 11, 2001, if you had asked so-called experts whether there was a significant risk of terrorists using a commercial jetliner to destroy a skyscraper and kill thousands, the vast majority would have answered with a resounding, “No!”
But presuming that which has not yet happened cannot ever happen is a bad basis for making policy decisions. And that is especially true when attempting to protect the United States from enemies whose primary goal is to sow fear by doing exactly what defenders least expect. From powered flight to artificial intelligence, human history is replete with examples of the impossible – suddenly and unexpectedly — becoming not only possible but commonplace.
Furthermore, it is unclear why the naysayers remain so unconvinced that Islamist organizations don’t see a porous southern border as a boon. As recently as March 2022, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) published a study on the security threat posed by the Iranian-backed, Lebanese terror group Hezbollah’s operations in Colombia. And in April of 2022, European Eye on Radicalization published a report classifying Islamist extremism and jihadism in Latin America as “longstanding” and “underestimated” phenomena. That report also noted that the Egyptian Islamic Group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Al-Qaeda, ISIS and HAMAS are also active throughout Central and South America. And there is no reasonable basis for concluding that any of those groups intend to confine their operations to locations south of the United States.
Even more alarming is the fact that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has confirmed that a sizable number of groups designated as “Foreign Terrorist Organizations” pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1189 have established connections to the transnational trade in narcotics. That’s correct, there is an ever-growing nexus between terror groups and drug cartels.
As WINEP observed, this is hardly surprising: “There are many similarities between a terrorist organization and a global drug cartel. Both oppose nation-state sovereignty, function best in ungoverned spaces, depend on mutual shadow facilitators, have no regard for human rights, rely on the hallmarks of organized crime such as corruption, intimidation, and violence, and are highly sophisticated organizations that operate with the latest technology.”
To put that in context, the narcotics cartels control the routes that smugglers use to transport illegal aliens across the U.S. border. Islamic terror organizations are working with the cartels. And CBP has apprehended 80 people on the terror watchlist unlawfully crossing the border over the last seven months. How much more does one need to connect the dots and draw the obvious conclusion? Terrorists have joined the millions of border jumpers that the Biden Administration has permitted to enter the U.S. And those terrorists will hide in the shadows, lost among their fellow illegal aliens, planning to kill and maim U.S. citizens.
Meanwhile, you can count on our perfidious chief executive and his sly secretary of homeland security to continue pushing the narrative that our borders are secure. But the terrorists know it’s false, and they are planning to cross our porous border and take up residence in a city near you. DHS has no idea how many terrorists there are, where they’re headed, or when they might strike – because our border has been reduced to a meaningless line in the sand.
Matt O’Brien is the director 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. He has nearly 30 years of experience in immigration law and policy, having held numerous positions within the Department of Homeland Security.
Also published at The Daily Caller, May 22, 2023.
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