News and Commentary

Suspected ‘Terrorists’ Have Infiltrated Migrant ‘Caravans,’ New House Report Warns

A new report from the House Homeland Security Committee found that suspected terrorists have joined the so-called migrant caravans that have amassed on the U.S.-Mexico border, just as President Trump has long claimed.

“Recently, Mexico has stepped up its efforts to combat the migrant caravans coming in from Honduras, which has included several SIAs [special interest aliens] and potentially KSTs [known or suspected terrorists] travelling towards the U.S. border,” said the report, which also found that the Islamic terror group ISIS urges members to cross the border.

“The report treads carefully to avoid including classified information and so it is understandably light on quantifying the terrorism threat with details about terrorist suspects crossing the border,” the Center for Immigration Studies said.

Among the highlights, the Center said:

  • The recent migrant caravans originating in Central America have included “several SIAs, and potentially” known or suspected terrorists traveling toward the U.S. border.
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security continues to prioritize the SIA threat as one of the top threats to the homeland because of the consistently “large number” of individuals from special interest countries that travel to the Western Hemisphere using illicit pathways.
  • Written ISIS materials and publications have encouraged ISIS followers to cross the U.S. Southwest Border.
  • DHS Border Patrol Agents “routinely” encounter SIAs at the border using routes controlled by transnational criminal organizations.
  • Statistics on the number of known or suspected terrorists on routes to the border are often classified, but the threat posed by “the existence of illicit pathways into the United States” highlights that “border security is national security” as terrorist groups seek to exploit vulnerabilities among neighboring countries to fund, support, and commit attacks against the homeland.
  • The report lists five open-source, unclassified cases representing the types of individuals and threats associated with illicit routes to the homeland. (CIS recently compiled and published a list of 15.) A number of heavily redacted cases are included in which biometric enrollment information uncovered suspected terrorists in 2013, 2015, and 2018.
  • The frequency of international flights from special interest regions into Latin America and the Caribbean continues to increase due to economic and governance challenges in those countries that create an attractive environment for illicit SIA travel to the U.S. border.
  • ICE Homeland Security Investigations is deeply enmeshed in investigations and operations throughout Central America to counter human smuggling organizations that move SIAs in Panama, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Brazil.
  • The United States-Canada border “is also susceptible to exploitation by SIAs.”

The report says the federal government needs to authorize Department of Homeland Security repatriation authority, which would “open up funding for the detention and removal of SIAs from places such as Panama and Mexico to their home countries, creating deterrence and reducing risk. ‘Congress should provide DHS the authority to give financial assistance to foreign partners to support the repatriation of individuals that impact the security of the United States. This will be a major tool for thwarting any potential threats before they reach the Homeland, while improving security and decreasing migration flows throughout the Western Hemisphere.'”

In addition, the report says there needs to be increased interagency coordination through a Western Hemisphere Task Force, which would “help address a solution to a problem that former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson sought to address in 2016: That too many disparate agencies were addressing the SIA travel threat without proper coordination.”

The report also said:

The practice of repatriating migrants back to their home countries should be viewed through the lenses of countering a potential terrorist attack, securing the border, and strengthening our national security. When migrants are repatriated from third countries, we not only lower the threat and the volume, but also save taxpayer dollars by not having to spend money on detention and other measures when migrants reach and cross our borders. According to ICE, on average it costs $133.99 a day to maintain one adult detention bed. However, immigration groups have put that number at closer to $200 per day. The average stay for an illegal immigrant in an ICE facility is estimated at around 44 days, indicating that the low end of the price tag for the taxpayers is around $5,895 per detainee, and can cost up to $8,800 by some estimates. Furthermore, DHS has projected that there will be an average of 51,379 individuals held in detention centers each day in FY 2018, costing the taxpayers millions of dollars by even the most conservative estimates. Repatriating individuals back to their home is a common sense policy that will strengthen our security while saving the taxpayers millions of dollars than can be used more effectively.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that criminals, and possibly terrorists, are trying to move into the U.S. from the southern border.

In a Saturday post on Twitter, Trump said, “We are working hard at the Border, but we need a WALL! In 2018, 1.7 million pounds of narcotics seized, 17,000 adults arrested with criminal records, and 6000 gang members, including MS-13, apprehended. A big Human Trafficking problem.”