The Department of Homeland Security is trying to shoot down reports that terrorist fighters are operating in Mexico and that some already have been caught attempting to cross the United States’ southern border.
Homeland Security officials said Wednesday that there was no truth to reports that fighters affiliated with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, have been apprehended on the border.
“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,” Marsha Catron, DHS press secretary, said in a statement.
But such assurances by the administration haven’t satisfied several Republican members of Congress, who feel the border is so permeable that it’s impossible for the government to say with any confidence who has entered the country or what their intentions are.
“Wake up, America,” Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., pronounced at a recent congressional hearing on a possible border threat. “With a porous southern border, we have no idea who’s in our country.”
Similar claims have been made by other prominent Republicans, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah.
“My concern is that I have a reason to believe that on September 10th, there were actually four individuals trying to cross the Texas border who were apprehended at two different stations, that do have ties to known terrorist organizations in the Middle East,” Chaffetz said at a recent hearing. Although Chaffetz didn’t specifically mention the Islamic State in his comments, he told news media that asked about the hearing that he worried about the group coming into the U.S.
Homeland Security spokeswoman Catron also disputed reports that any terrorist groups are organizing in Mexico.
“DHS continues to have no credible intelligence to suggest terrorist organizations are actively plotting to cross the southwest border,” she said.
This week, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., told Fox News that at least 10 Islamic State fighters have been caught trying to cross the U.S.-Mexican border. A member of the House Armed Services Committee, Hunter said he got his information directly from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., meanwhile, has raised concerns that the Canadian border is another vulnerability that terrorists could exploit.
Democrats charge that Republicans are trying to score political points by blaming President Barack Obama for failing to properly secure the country in light of a growing threat from the Islamic State.
A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that nearly half of all Americans feel the United States is less safe now than before 9/11.