Federal officials say there is no credible information that known terrorists are crossing the southern border of the United States. But that hasn’t stopped one local Texas official from linking “Quran books” reportedly found on the border to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group. Gary Painter, sheriff of Midland County, Texas, described as a “born leader of men,” said to Fox News recently if ISIS members are poised to infiltrate the border, that “we’ll send them to hell.”
“I received an intelligence report that said that there were ISIS cells that were active in Juarez [Mexico] and that there was some activity for the sheriffs along the border to be on alert,” Painter said when the Fox and Friends’ host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked if ISIS was ready to attack on U.S. soil. “I’m saying the border is wide open. We have found copies, or people along the border, have found Muslim clothing, they have found Quran books that are laying on the side of the trail. So we know that there are Muslims that have come across, have been smuggled in the United States.”
“If they show their ugly head in our area, we’ll send them to hell,” Painter continued. “I think the United States needs to get busy and they need to bomb them. They need to take them out. I would like for them to hit them so hard and so often that every time they hear a propeller on a plane or a jet aircraft engine that they urinate down both legs.”
Painter made similar comments in other media outlets where he said that ISIS has operations in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, which borders El Paso, Texas. That claim was first published on the conservative Judicial Watch, but a federal law enforcement told an ABC affiliate that it is “unverified and unlikely” that ISIS is in Juarez.
Last week, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials dismissed claims at a Senate hearing that ISIS members could sneak into the country by land. DHS undersecretary for intelligence Francis Taylor told Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that he was “satisfied we have the intelligence and capability on the border that would prevent that activity.” At the same time, Jennifer Lasley, a DHS official told the House Homeland Security border security subcommittee, “We don’t have any credible information, that we are aware of, of known or suspected terrorists coming across the border.”
Rather, the DHS is more concerned about ISIS fighters who could enter the country by air — John Wagner, assistant commissioner in the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s Office of Field Operations said, “The number of known watch-listed persons we are encountering on the Southwest border is minimal compared to commercial aviation. We’re talking tens versus thousands.” In a television interview, Pentagon Rear Adm. John Kirby stated that the Pentagon has “no information that leads us to believe that” ISIS was crossing at the U.S.-Mexican border.”
Painter is the latest to join the list of officials who are claiming that the “porous” southern border could be the gateway for ISIS penetration into the United States. During a speech at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) said, “There’s the obvious great concern that because of the condition of the border, from the standpoint of it not being secure and us not knowing who is penetrating across, that individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be.” In a Time op-ed, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) called on securing “our own borders and immigration policy from ISIS infiltration. Our border is porous, and the administration, rather than acting to protect it, instead ponders unconstitutional executive action, legalizing millions of illegal immigrants.” During a radio interview over the weekend, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) also mentioned the erroneous report outlining ISIS operations in Ciudad Juarez. And in July, a member of the anti-immigrant group American Patriot, Three Percent, took pictures of what appeared to be a “Muslim prayer rug found near the border in Arizona.” But Gawker pointed that the the rug in question was actually an Adidas shirt.
Already, the U.S. spends exponential amounts on border security, and the vast majority of the border meets one of Homeland Security’s top three certifications for security and overall. The White House said that the Border Patrol has doubled the number of agents from about 10,000 in 2004 to more than 21,000 in 2011; that the DHS has “completed 649 miles of fencing out of nearly 652 miles planned,” and increased the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents along the southwest border. Federal funding on border expenditures has tripled since 2002, with the country spending $18 billion on immigration enforcement in the 2012 fiscal year, more than every other federal law enforcement agency combined.