US can stop border-crossing terrorists with Obama administration policies

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Near-misses from the worst mass migration border crisis in American history keep coming at us like machine-gun fire.

This month, FBI counterterrorism agents arrested six Tajikistani nationals on terrorism charges after they illegally crossed the southwest border from Mexico, apparently foiling a terror plot linked to the ISIS-K terror group in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The arrests came soon after a Russian who illegally crossed the border was convicted and sentenced in California on terrorism charges for buying weaponry for an al Qaeda group in Syria, as the FBI said he would have gone kinetic had he not been charged.

In May, a Jordanian national who illegally crossed the border from Mexico staged a vehicle ramming attack on Marine Corps Base Quantico that all involved federal agencies refuse to publicly rule out as a terror incident.

This year, Border Patrol agents overrun by the mass migration crisis have accidentally released at least seven immigrants who were on the FBI’s terrorism watch list when they illegally crossed the southern border, according to multiple reports, sparking frantic manhunts to capture them.

That’s just a fractional few of many disturbing cases.

For years prior to the historic mass migration crisis that President Biden kicked off on his inauguration day in 2021, the US media laughed off the threat of terrorist border infiltration as the stuff of baseless right-wing fear-mongering — such as when then-President Donald Trump said in 2018 that Middle Easterners were moving with US-bound caravans through Central America and Mexico.

Much good company has joined the once-ridiculed Paul Reveres, including FBI Director Christopher Wray and the apparently spooked authors of a surprisingly anxious Foreign Affairs magazine essay published this week.

But while many are sounding border infiltration alarms, few have offered solutions.

Perhaps Republican border hawks should turn to an unexpected ally: Democratic Party stalwart Jeh Johnson, President Barack Obama’s secretary of homeland security.

In 2016, during his final months in office, Johnson became a true believer in the threat posed by “special interest aliens,” or SIAs: border-crossing migrants from 35 to 40 nations where Islamic terrorist groups are active.

After 9/11, one of the most important counterterrorism protocols implemented on the border required agents to detain all SIAs until they could undergo face-to-face interviews to determine if these total strangers harbored potential terror connections or intent.

In June 2016, Johnson was so fearful about SIA border crossers that he sent a memorandum to his top deputies demanding their “immediate attention” to “the increased global movement of SIAs.”

He ordered the formation of a “multi-DHS Component SIA Joint Action Group” that would assess the entire program and create a tightly coordinated international action plan to “counter the threats posed by the smuggling of SIAs.” 

“I want to ensure we are bringing the full resources of the Department to bear in a coordinated manner on the issue of SIAs,” he wrote, to build on existing counter-SIA programs.

Johnson’s completely prudent plan to intensify the vetting of SIAs at the border and to take down terrorist smugglers in other countries got lost in the chaos of the transition to Donald Trump’s presidency.

His intended revamp never happened — and the catastrophic Biden-engineered mass migration crisis vaporized whatever was left of it.

While SIA traffic over the border had previously amounted to 3,000 to 4,000 individuals annually, SIA traffic since 2021 has reached an unimaginable 70,000 to 80,000 per year.

Federal intelligence and law enforcement officials could no longer interview even a smidgeon of those SIAs, who are mostly waved into the country with no interviews.

“Due to massive numbers of illegal aliens overwhelming CBP, in-depth face-to-face interviews are nonexistent,” former Chief Border Patrol Agent Rodney Scott testified before the House Judiciary Committee last September on the subject of terrorist border infiltration.

The first fix is, of course, almost too obvious to mention: Reduce the total numbers of illegal aliens pouring over the southwest border.

But the far less obvious fix is this one, regardless of how many are crossing: We must resurrect Johnson’s 2016 initiative to interview SIAs before they are released on asylum, and target their smugglers for prosecution and prison.

As importantly, we must adequately fund and equip this massive effort — no matter how many SIAs arrive.

If Johnson’s 2016 plan was nonpartisan enough for the Obama administration, it should be good enough for the Biden DHS, or a Trump one. And, we can hope, not too late to stop the next terrorism attempt within the United States.

Todd Bensman, a senior national security fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, is the author of “America’s Covert Border War” (2021).



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Las Vegas News Magazine

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