by WorldTribune Staff, September 15, 2023[The following are excerpts from the Sept. 14 testimony of Todd Bensman of the Center for Immigration Studies before a House Judiciary Committee subcommittee hearing titled “Terrorist Entry Through the Southwest Border”.]
Chairman McClintock and Ranking Member Jayapal, and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify and for holding a hearing about this underreported national security consequence of the worst mass migration crisis ever to have stricken the American southern border.
By every recordable government metric, the American Southwest Border is the scene of the illegal worst mass migration in American history, now well into its third year. At least 4.3 million foreign nationals have entered the United States in 30 months over the border, as of this hearing date, with millions more coming and a Border Patrol debilitated by the overwhelming workload. Border policies that emphasize catch-and-release that began in January 2021 unleashed a seemingly unbounded human wave over the southern border that has not relented 30 months later and has broken every illegal immigration record in the nation’s contemporary history.
In a recent opinion on border policy litigation brought by the State of Florida against the administration of President Joe Biden, U.S. District Judge Thomas Kent Wetherell concluded the administration caused the mass migration that began in early 2021 “by establishing policies and practices that all-but-guaranteed the vast majority of aliens arriving at the Southwest Border … would not be detained and would instead be quickly released into the country where they would be allowed to stay…”
Among the many serious consequences that this mass migration crisis has created – unfunded burdens in U.S. cities on housing, social welfare systems, health care, crime, and public education – is one that should transcend partisanship and rally all Americans in bipartisan spirit, which hopefully this hearing will facilitate.
This crisis has elevated and exacerbated the homeland security threat of terrorist border infiltration to discomfiting levels when, by my estimation, the national security enterprise had reasonably contained and managed this threat for nearly two decades.
This mass migration crisis has clearly broken down and degraded a set of counter-terrorism programs first stood up in 2004 at the land borders, which thus far has largely prevented the most serious outcomes from US-designated terrorists who would cross the southern border and attack inside the United States.
None have attacked to date from this direction (although an ISIS operative who crossed from Mexico into California did later attack in Edmonton, Canada on September 30, 2017).
The threat of such a tragedy happening is much elevated now, however, because border counterterrorism programs to be described below are no longer protecting Americans as well as they have for 20 years, if at all. This is especially demonstrated, in small part, by the crossings of more immigrants on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database watch list than ever before recorded – more than 260 since Inauguration Day, when fewer than 20 per year were caught in prior years (zero in 2019) on both sides of the border. That these hundreds of foreign nationals on US terrorism watch lists were caught has sometimes been cast as good news, of a system that is working. But these captures are neutralized by four counts of decidedly bad news, which are that:
◼ Illegal aliens on national security watch lists are coming in monthly numbers that dwarf the numbers caught during many (if not all) past full years.
◼ They come while historic numbers of “got-aways” (approaching two million) who evaded detection as Border Patrol agents were busy processing in the “give-ups,”
heightening the probability that watch-listed individuals were among the got-aways and now are among us.
◼ As border counterterrorism programs crumble, opportunities to catch and deport others pass unexploited.
◼ Terrorist actors abroad are by now well aware that the U.S. southern border poses far less of an impediment or deterrent to illegal entry than in years past.
Who they are
In addition to withholding disclosures of special interest alien numbers, CBP under Biden also does not disclose the nationalities of immigrants who were a match for the terror watchlist, nor even general information about their group affiliations.
The Center for Immigration Studies is seeking nationality and group affiliation information through the Freedom of Information Act in an effort to bring the public more clarity about the nature of those attempting to gain entry into the United States at its land borders. What limited information about those apprehended during the Biden border crisis has become public through leaks or in some court filings, however, does not bode well for effective national
They are a mix of Islamic jihadists and, as if that were not disturbing enough, members of the blood-drenched Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or “FARC,” a Marxist-Leninist guerilla group that waged war on Colombia’s government from 1964 until agreeing to a peace deal in August 2016.
Among the first suspected terrorists apprehended during the Biden administration were three from Yemen and one from Serbia, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testified in March 2021.
A separate disclosure in a CBP press release the following month had it that two Yemenis on the watch list crossed near Calexico, California. One crossed in January 2021 and a second crossed at the same spot in March 2021. That CBP press release was quickly removed but never disavowed. A variety of violent extremist groups operate in Yemen’s civil war, including Al Qaida. Both Yemenis, the press release said, also were on the FBI’s rarified No Fly list, normally reserved for individuals that U.S. intelligence deem so dangerous that their ability to travel must be curtailed.
One of the Yemenis had secreted a cell phone sim card in his shoe insole, the release said without elaboration.
In the Shihab case discussed earlier, he told undercover informants that he had successfully transported two Hezbollah operatives into the country. Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shia group designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Separately, in December 2021, Yuma Sector Chief Border Patrol Agent Chris Clem announced on Twitter the apprehension of a “potential terrorist” from Saudi Arabia caught entering illegally near Yuma. He was wearing a New York County ambulance jacket.
“The 21-year-old migrant from Saudi Arabia is linked to several Yemeni subjects of interest,” Chief Clem wrote in his Tweet, which was quickly deleted. No further details were available on this case, although the Saudi embassy later denied the man was not a citizen of that country. Especially disturbing were public disclosures by the Washington Examiner that dozens of watch-listed immigrants caught at the border were members of FARC.