In January of 2019, after President Donald Trump suggested a border wall was critical for stopping terror threats, The New York Times posted its predictable rejoinder, “A Border Wall to Stop Terrorists? Experts Say That Makes Little Sense.”
“Many Latin American countries have border law enforcement gaps — limited law enforcement capabilities and established smuggling routes — that extremists could exploit to harm the United States, according to the State Department’s latest Country Reports on Terrorism,” The Times reported, seeming to concede Trump’s point before attempting to negate it.
“But, the report concluded, that has not happened.”
Then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted that “[t]he number of terror-watchlisted [individuals] encountered at our Southern Border has increased over the last two years. The exact number is sensitive and details about these cases are extremely sensitive.”
The threat is real. The number of terror-watchlisted encountered at our Southern Border has increased over the last two years. The exact number is sensitive and details about these cases are extremely sensitive.
— Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen (@SecNielsen) January 8, 2019
“Former national security officials and analysts have pushed back — especially on the notion that terrorism suspects or their sympathizers use the southwest border as a door to the United States,” The Times countered.
“The idea that you have that many terrorists flooding across the border when you have all of these dedicated agents focused on stopping that kind of activity is ridiculous,” said W. Ralph Basham, former Bush-era head of Customs and Border Protection.
Of course, you don’t need a flood of terrorists to enter the United States for real damage to occur. Nineteen hijackers were all that were needed for the deadliest terror attack in history. Given that the United States is by far the biggest target of terrorism in the world, a porous border represents an especial danger — even if it’s not being used, at present, to smuggle terrorists into the country.
For proof, I present the case of three individuals from a terror-sponsoring nation who were detained at the southern border late last month.
“Agents conducting line watch duties observed three individuals who had just crossed the border illegally. This group consisted of a mother, father, and child who were later identified as Iranian nationals. All subjects were transported to the Comstock Station and processed in accordance with U.S. Customs and Border Protection guidelines,” the news release read.
“Agents in Del Rio Sector encounter individuals from countries all throughout the world,” said Doyle E. Amidon, Jr., acting chief patrol agent of the Del Rio Sector.
“The vigilance, diligence, and dedication to duty that our agents display on a daily basis is second to none. The security of our neighborhoods, communities, and our great nation is our top priority.”
According to the CBP, individuals from 63 countries had been apprehended in the Del Rio Sector in fiscal year 2020 alone, up from 59 countries in fiscal year 2019.
The fact that this is a family — and thus almost certainly not related to terror — is irrelevant. Iran is designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, one that probably still isn’t too jazzed we killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January.
Even if most of us have forgotten the strike amid other concerns this year, rest assured that mullahs in Tehran have a long memory. Their retribution for the attack was originally designed not to elicit U.S. retribution; it backfired when they downed a civilian Ukrainian jetliner, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board.
If an Iranian family can make it to the southern border and come close enough to making it into the United States that Border Patrol ended up apprehending them, it can be reasonably extrapolated that other individuals with more noxious goals could get at least that far. With more professional training and possible assistance, they’d have a much better chance of not getting caught.
Again, the assumption that a border wall isn’t effective at stopping terrorism assumes that terrorist strategies and methods won’t change. During the brief period where the Islamic State group controlled a wide swath of the Middle East, we saw the organization try to recruit Americans. That this met with limited success ought not to make us feel particularly complacent.
And yet, complacency is what the left is urging when it comes to the southern border. Logic dictates this is a major security failing. The argument against this is simply: Yes, but it hasn’t happened yet. The same could be said for any other security failing that ended up leading to a major terror attack, though.
The reason this one is different is obvious: The desire to have an insecure border is entirely political, not strategic. Comity on this issue would require the left to first admit the United States has a problem with illegal immigration, something liberals prefer to forget for reasons of expediency. To them, enforcing any immigration law is perceived to be a draconian move, and this strategy is applied to any tool that might dissuade illegal immigrants from entering in the first place.
This case ought to highlight just what’s at stake this November, particularly with a Democratic Party that views the wall not as a critical line of protection but as a reified representation of hate.
Trump was right — the lack of a physical impediment to illegal immigration on our southern border represents a critical gap in our nation’s anti-terrorist efforts. If The Times wants to talk about things that “make little sense” — as its 2019 headline put it — it’s ignoring the threat that an insecure border creates.
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