Republican senators said Wednesday it’s a “near certainty” that terrorism suspects have sneaked into the U.S. over the porous southern border on President Biden’s watch, and they challenged the administration’s claims the boundary is secure.
The senators pointed to data showing the Border Patrol has nabbed 56 people whose names were flagged in the terrorism database since Oct. 1 — a record. They said if that many are being caught, more are getting through.
“Given the unprecedented number of ‘got-aways’ – 500,000 that we know about since last October – it is a near certainty that other individuals on the Terrorist Screening Database have entered the United States undetected, via our open southern border,” the senators, led by Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
They said that’s particularly worrisome given the current threat level to the U.S., with Ayman al-Zawahri, al Qaeda’s leader until he was killed by a U.S. drone strike last weekend, on record pushing for attacks on American soil.
Mr. Mayorkas has said the southern border is secure.
The senators said the secretary must reveal more about his department’s ability to detect and nab terrorists making it across the U.S.-Mexico line.
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The senators said the fact that al-Zawahri was living in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, showed that troubled nation has revived its terrorism ties. They warned of the chance that an Afghanistan-based organization would sneak someone into the U.S. to carry out an attack.
“There are al Qaeda training camps emerging all over Afghanistan. Unless something changes, it is just a matter of time until we are hit here. We are urging you and those within your agency to change the policy at our border before it is too late,” the senators wrote.
The potential for a terrorist to make it across the border has stirred debate for years, but it wasn’t until Customs and Border Protection began releasing data earlier this year that Americans got a good look at what agents are actually seeing.
According to the numbers, six people whose names popped in the terrorism database were arrested by agents in June. That follows 15 who were arrested in May.
The 56 arrested so far during the current fiscal year is by far the record, easily outpacing the 15 recorded in all of 2021, and more than double the total from 2017 to 2021 combined.
Prosecutors this spring also announced charges against a man they accuse of being an ISIS operator, with plans to smuggle an ISIS hit team across the southern border in order to assassinate former President George W. Bush.