Top immigration officials have shot down claims from various Republicans that fighters for the terrorist group ISIS are trying to enter the United States by land through the Mexican border. Both Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and former national chief of the United States Border Patrol David Aguilar have said that there is no proof that ISIS has entered the United States.
Thursday afternoon, Aguilar released a statement saying that claims of ISIS crossing the Mexican border were false. He said “The recent claims suggesting that terrorist organizations like ISIS have now crossed the U.S. Mexico border are unfounded…DHS has indicated that there is no credible intelligence suggesting that any member of a terrorist group has been apprehended at the border or that such a crossing is imminent.” Wednesday, Johnson said that Hunter’s claims had no “credible, specific intelligence to that effect.” And Thursday, he expanded on those comments in a major address, explaining that four arrests some claimed were linked to ISIS were in fact of members of the Kurdish Worker’s Party, “an organization that is actually fighting against ISIL and defended Kurdish territory in Iraq.”
The idea of ISIS infiltrating Mexico has become a recent Republican talking point. On Tuesday, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) told Fox News that around 10 ISIS fighters were captured while entering the United States through Mexico. In the interview, Hunter said he had gotten the information from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), the Republican Senate candidate for Arkansas, said that ISIS might collaborate with drug cartels in Mexico to “expand outside the drug trade into human trafficking and potentially even terrorism” and enter the United States that way. He said that the combined groups could attack Arkansas. Arkansas is over 800 miles from the Mexican border.
In August, Texas governor Rick Perry said that there was a real possibility that members of ISIS had already entered the US through Mexico, although he also said that there is no evidence that terrorists have ever crossed the border. In September Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) said in an op-ed for Time that the US had to change its immigration policy to prevent against possible ISIS attacks because “our border is porous…Recently, it was estimated that as many as 6,000 possibly dangerous foreign students are unaccounted for. This is inexcusable.” Sen. Trent Franks (R-Ar) also said in September that ISIS was present in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, while Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told Fox News that four people with ties to ISIS attempted to cross the border on September 10. The Department of Homeland Security denied those claims, saying “the suggestion that individuals who have ties to ISIL have been apprehended at the Southwest border is categorically false, and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground.”
Amelia Rosch is an intern for ThinkProgress.