Obama administration officials say that no credible evidence exists to support claims that there are terror plots involving agents of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) penetrating the United States by land through the southern border. But Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) took to social media Tuesday, sending out an alarming claim that the border is insecure because “25 miles of barbed wire fence is the only thing” keeping out members of the militant group Islamic State. Gosar’s message is part of an overall Republican strategy using international terror scares to gin up fear over U.S. border security.
In his tweets, the congressman insisted that the southern border must be secured and called on people to “check out” a travel caution sign that reads, “smuggling and illegal immigration may be encountered in this area.” In another tweet, he wrote, “25 miles of barbed wire fence is the only thing keeping #ISIS out of America. We must secure the border #AZBorderTour.” He included four photos of himself next to barbed wire: in two photos, Gosar appears to be squatting near the barbed wire fence with ranchers; another shows him stepping over the wire fence; and yet another shows him listening as a rancher points to an object outside the scope of the photo.
Gosar has long been a stalwart supporter of limited immigration, going so far as to support a bill that would end the President’s ability to use executive action to grant temporary deportation relief to some undocumented immigrants; limit citizenship to children born to U.S. citizens or nationals or other lawful residents; liken the Obama administration’s lawsuit against the anti-immigration law in Arizona known as SB 1070 to a “declaration of war [by the federal government] against Arizona;” and support sending troops to the border.
The Obama administration, including numerous Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, dismissed claims 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.” What’s more, a federal law enforcement official said that claims that ISIS has operations in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico were “unverified and unlikely.”
But like Gosar, other lawmakers are exploiting the gruesome acts committed by the militant group with campaign ads asserting that Democrats are not tough enough on border security. Some have already exploited that fear through the airwaves. Most recently, the National Republican Congressional Committee released an ad last week accusing Democratic challenger Dan Maffei (D) for being soft on terrorism and supporting the release of undocumented immigrants with criminal records. In his campaign ad, Georgia Republican Senate candidate David Perdue accused Democrat Michelle Nunn for supporting “amnesty, while terrorism experts say our border breakdown could provide an entry for groups like ISIS.” And the list of people who have tapped into the fear of the Islamic State include: Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), a Texas sheriff who promised to send Islamic state militants “to hell,” and an anti-immigrant group that mistook an Adidas shirt for a Muslim prayer rug.
Federal spending on immigration enforcement already costs $18 billion, more than the government spends on every other federal law enforcement agency combined. 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; 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, with border agents at every single mile of the border. And there are now more “boots on the ground at the border than there have every been in history” while “net undocumented migration is now at or below zero,” according to the Center for American Progress.