Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) became the latest politician to link U.S. immigration policy to terrorism this week, claiming that migrants could come through the southern U.S. border to engage in “terrorist-related activity.” During an interview with the conservative-leaning Breitbart News after a visit to the Texas border, the 2016 presidential front-runner alluded to Israel’s militarized borders and stated that the United States should put up more fencing to “truly secure that border.”
Citing concern that “international criminal organizations [are] seeking to penetrate our land-based borders” and pushing “drugs,” “firearms,” and trafficked humans, Walker pointed to Israel as an example of a country that the United States could emulate and invest in better “infrastructure, personnel, and technology” to secure the border.
This is an abbreviated portion of Breitbart‘s interview with Walker, on immigration:
This is truly a matter national sovereignty, in that if we were having people penetrate our water-based ports throughout the Gulf [of Mexico] or either coast, we’d be taking swift action initially with the Coast Guard and eventually probably with the Navy. Yet, we have international criminal organizations seeking to penetrate our land-based borders to the south—the push for drugs, for firearms and increasingly for people from a trafficking standpoint—it’s just horrific we’re not taking more action to truly secure that border. […]
[…] We were there with Public Safety and one of the things they pointed out was they shared with us the list from just the beginning of the year here in 2015 of all the countries of origin. Many are not from Mexico or Central America or even South America. There are many from other places around the world including many places in the world where obviously there’s some concerns about terrorist-related activity and some of that. That’s what I pointed out: You look at what people are coming across the border, there are any number of reasons out there.
People say ‘oh we can’t secure the border.’ I disagree. I was just in Israel where they have something like 500 miles of fencing up and when they did that it dramatically lowered the number of terrorist-related attacks and they saw like a 90 percent reduction [in illegal immigration]. They’re a much, much, much smaller country than we are and we’re talking about a southern border that’s larger than that—but really only about four times larger than their entire country. It just shows me though that with investments in infrastructure, personnel and technology, there’s no reason why we can’t secure that border.
Department of Homeland Security officials have maintained repeatedly there is no credible evidence that members of ISIS or other known terrorists have entered or plan to enter the United States by land at the Southern U.S. Border. “Let’s not unduly create fear and anxiety in the public by passing on speculation and rumor,” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson told CNN last October.
But many conservative lawmakers, including several Republican presidential contenders, have nonetheless claimed terrorism vulnerability at the southern border. Last year, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) claimed that ISIS and “multiple other groups that are plotting the exact same things.” Potential presidential candidate Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) also once claimed that there is “a very real possibility” that terrorists could enter the country, despite admitting that there is “no clear evidence” of anyone affiliated with terrorism ever crossing the southern U.S. border.
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.
In his remarks this week, Walker made no mention of reform for immigrants already in the country. In the past, Walker twice signed resolutions backing programs that would have granted legal status to undocumented immigrants as a county executive in Milwaukee County. And in 2013, Walker endorsed legal status for undocumented immigrants. But earlier this year, Walker said that he didn’t support “amnesty.”