- Center for Immigration Studies released a report addressing the overlooked security threat of Special Interest Aliens being smuggled into the U.S. through the southern border.
- National security expert Todd Bensman wants the issue to be inserted into the national immigration debate.
- Special Interest Aliens often refer to foreign nationals from terrorism-prone nations.
The immigration debate often focuses on Mexican and Central Americans entering the U.S. illegally, but the smuggling of aliens from terrorism-prone countries across the U.S.-Mexico border should also be part of the discussion, according to a report published Monday.
Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) senior national security fellow Todd Bensman wrote “Terrorist Infiltration Threat at the Southwest Border” to bring the smuggling of Special Interest Aliens (SIA), or foreign nationals from high terrorism-prone countries, as a possibility for terrorists to enter America to the forefront.
“In the ongoing public debates about immigration enforcement, the absence of SIAs as even a consideration raises the prospect of high-consequence negligence,” Bensman wrote.
While the report acknowledged that no migrants committed attacks on U.S. land and most SIAs are not connected to terrorists, the SIA smuggling network provides terrorist travelers the “capability” to reach the border, according to the report.
For example, a Somali asylum-seeker who crossed into California in 2011 allegedly committed an ISIS-inspired attack which hurt five people in Canada in 2017, the report said.
It is unclear how many SIAs cross the southern border each year as the data is not readily available. One data set between 2001 to 2007 found roughly 6,000 SIAs from over 40 countries were caught. Another report leaked in 2015 found Texas had 439 encounters with SIAs within nine months of 2014, a 15 percent increase, according to the CIS report.
The SIA who come from Northern and Eastern Africa, South Asia and the Middle East often travel by air and land to Central and South American countries. From there, they may travel by air, land, and/or water to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Recently, six Yemeni citizens paid various amounts to a Jordanian national to smuggle them into the U.S. through Mexico, according to a previous The Daily Caller News Foundation report.
The SIA smuggling issue used to be a “potential national security threat” that required the “urgent coordinated attention of agencies,” according to the report.
CIS obtained an unpublicized memo by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson that was sent on June 24, 2016 to 10 top border security law enforcement chiefs. “Cross-Border Movement of Special Interest Aliens” expressed concerns over aliens from Muslim-majority countries entering the U.S. through the Mexican border.
The memo called to form a “multi-DHS Component SIA Joint Action Group,” and other measures to educate the public. Education plans did not come to fruition, however, according to the report.
Former President Barack Obama’s administration barely mentioned the problem and the once national security threat disappeared in the debate over immigration policies under President Donald Trump, the report said.
Bensman said that government officials were still concerned about the issue, but the complexity and the fact that the topic could not be “put in a sound bite,” could have contributed to the lack of awareness. That’s why he wrote the report.
“It is to insert this issue into the national debate in part because national legislation requires all our agencies deal with it,” Bensman told TheDCNF in a phone call.”
The American public should be concerned, however, due to SIAs’ successes in Europe, according to the report.
“Records from court prosecutions of SIA smugglers show the use of fraudulent documents, human smugglers, and illegal border crossings to Europe’s external border is also common among SIAs who travel from those same countries to the U.S.-Mexico border,” Bensman wrote. “So it is reasonable to speculate that terrorists who fought with ISIS in Syria (and still do in a dozen nations hosting ISIS franchises) began eyeing smuggling routes to the U.S.-Mexico border.”
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