As the bench-clearing brawl over border security roars on, it would behoove wall advocates to broaden their pitch. A wall would slash illegal immigration on the southern frontier — a good thing. And it also would bolster U.S. national security and counterterrorism.
Not every illegal alien who crosses the southern border dodges Gila monsters and skirts cacti in search of the American dream. Beyond old-fashioned killers, such as the remarkably brutal MS-13 gang, “special interest aliens” hail from nations rife with militant Islam, including Iran, Pakistan, and Syria. Most of these border jumpers may be perfectly harmless, but the risk that even a few may want to murder Americans is a needless gamble.
Federal agents in 2015 nabbed 3,977 people from the four places that the State Department then classified as “state sponsors of terrorism,” plus ten others that the Transportation Safety Administration since 2010 designates as “countries of interest.” All told, 67,180 individuals from those 14 nations were apprehended while attempting to enter, or residing in, America illegally — from fiscal years 2006 through 2015 — according to the Department of Homeland Security’s 2015 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, released last November.
These latest statistics encompass all apprehensions within the U.S. and at its borders. However, among the 462,388 illegal aliens arrested in FY 2015, 331,333 (72 percent) were apprehended on the southern frontier. It is reasonable to believe that at least some of the illegals from these 14 trouble spots were among those who pierced the U.S./Mexican border.
Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria were designated as “state sponsors of terrorism” through 2014, but Obama delisted Cuba on May 29, 2015. Among these four countries, the 2015 Yearbook reported the following apprehensions (see Table 34):
Cuba: 2,281 (in FY 2015); 42,355 (in FY 2006–15)
Iran: 154 and 2,410
Sudan: 81 and 1,590
Syria: 57 and 904
This chart shows analogous DHS arrest figures among the TSA’s ten “countries of interest:”
Fortunately, no terror attack has been tied to Muslim extremists who breached the U.S./Mexican border — so far. But who knows? Such fanatics could be here already, perhaps to raise money, train jihadists, or radicalize peaceful Muslims.
‐ “Recent reports state that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has apprehended several members of known Islamist terrorist organizations crossing the southern border in recent years,” Representative Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) stated at a March 2016 House national-security oversight hearing. “The Texas Department of Public Safety (TPDS) has reported that border security agencies have arrested several Somali immigrants crossing the southern border who are known members of al-Shabaab, the terrorist group that launched the deadly attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya.”
‐ TDPS cited 143 “land border crossing encounters with watch-listed individuals in southwest border states between November 2013 and July 2014.”
‐ Ahmed Muhammed Dhakane, a Somali who aided al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups, was sentenced to ten years in prison in 2011. He helped an undetermined number of suspected Somali terrorists cross the Tex-Mex border.
“The Defendant stated that all of these individuals are ready to die for the cause,” federal prosecutors explained in their sentencing memorandum. “He admits that he knowingly believed he was smuggling violent jihadists into the United States.”
‐U.S. Border Patrol agents caught Pakistanis Mukhtar Ahmad and Muhammad Azeem just north of Tijuana in September 2015. According to the Washington Times, databases tied Ahmad to a suspected or confirmed terrorist. A foreign intelligence agency already had forwarded information on Azeem to U.S. authorities.
‐Border Patrol agents in 2014 also intercepted four male members of the Kurdish Workers’ Party, which Washington considers a terrorist group. Each reportedly paid $8,000 to be trafficked from Istanbul to Paris to Mexico City to America’s southern perimeter.
‐Arizona’s attorney general discovered “a steady flow of money from Middle Easterners to human smuggling rings in Mexico,” the Christian Science Monitor’s Warren Richey reported last January. “In 2015, one smuggler received 70 money transfers from 69 individuals, all of whom appeared to be of Middle Eastern origin, the investigation revealed.”
“We live in an age in which jihadists and other terrorist organizations have the United States at the top of their hit list,” Ira Mehlman, Federation for American Immigration Reform’s media director, tells me. “They understand what our vulnerabilities are, and they will not hesitate to exploit them. Our unprotected borders are just such a vulnerability. Our government has an obligation to take reasonable steps — infrastructure, technology, and manpower — to minimize these threats to our national security.”
This article mentions only people whom federal officials apprehended. Those who remain undetected could be anywhere in America, perhaps in a neighborhood near you.