House Republicans averted a Department of Homeland Security shutdown Tuesday by approving a funding bill without any of the politicized moves to shut down Obama’s immigration executive action. But in the hours before the vote, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) sought to gin up support for the funding by calling constituents with a warning that terrorists were crossing the border.
The DCCC call targeted 29 “vulnerable” House Republicans, accusing them for holding up DHS funding at a time when “known terrorists are trying to sneak across the border.” According to the DCCC website, the robocall includes a transcript as follows:
This is [PERSON] calling from the DCCC. An alarming new report says that known terrorists are trying to sneak across the border, yet the Republican led Congress is refusing to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security. With so many threats at home and abroad, the Republicans in Congress should not be playing games with our national security.
Call Congresswoman McSally at XXX-XXX-XXXX and tell her enough is enough. Stop playing politics and fully fund the Department of Homeland Security.
The robocall did not specify the nature of the terrorist crossings. But a press release sent by the DCCC linked to a leaked Texas Department of Public Safety assessment, which found some evidence of “special interest aliens” caught trying to cross the southern U.S. border, individuals who came from countries with known terrorism ties. Arrests include Somali immigrants with connections to al-Shabab, the terrorist group that targeted the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya and another terrorist group known as Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya. The report also mentioned the arrest of high-profile cartel leaders based in Mexico.
“Republicans like Congresswoman McSally have allowed this dysfunction to go on long enough,” DCCC spokesperson Matt Thornton said in a press release. “With threats at home and abroad, the American people can’t afford another day of the Republicans’ political games and continued failure to govern. Since Republicans have such a bad track record, we wanted to ensure that voters would hold their members accountable.”
The tactic is reminiscent of those typically employed by Republicans who oppose immigration reform. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) tweeted last year that “25 miles of barbed wire fence is the only thing keeping #ISIS out of America. We must secure the border.” Gov. Rick Perry also recently linked international terror to the southern border, stating, “No one should be surprised that dictators like Assad would cross the President’s red line because he knows the President won’t even defend the line that separates our nation from Mexico.”
“We’re not trying to fearmonger, that was not our intention at all,” an aide to the DCC told ThinkProgress on background. “We’re trying to show a very real, very specific, timely threat and relate that to the DHS being shut down. … It was very specific to these three people who were arrested with known terrorist organizations. It was in reference to that. It’s very specific, very timely, it was not meant to be fearmongering. In fact, it’s sad that conservatives have painted this issue so much that they’ve abused and made all these claims that when there is a real threat, that this falls into the lexicon of what they are using.”
“The bigger point is that it is completely asinine that Republicans would ever stop funding DHS, national security, and to go after DREAMers,” the aide added.
While the leak alleging “special interest aliens” intercepted at the border came from Texas officials, the Obama administration, including numerous Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, has thus far 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.” Even the Texas DPS says there is “no known intelligence that specifically links undocumented immigrants to terrorism plots,” according to the Washington Post.
On the whole, the White House has aggressively upgraded border security since 2008 when the president took office, taking on the “most serious and sustained effort to secure our border in our nation’s history, cutting illegal border crossings by more than half” a White House press release stated. Since then, the government has added 3,000 more Border Patrol agents along the southwest border, while doubling border fencing, unmanned surveillance systems, and ground surveillance systems. As of the 2014 fiscal year, there were 18,156 Border Patrol agents along the southwest border sectors.