A major talking point of the Trump Administration has been that the border wall is vital to national security. As part of their argument, President Trump has made the claim that terrorists have been apprehended crossing the southern border with Mexico. This and similar claims became the focal point of a heated discussion between White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Chris Wallace of Fox News yesterday.
On Fox News Sunday, Wallace cited Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s statement that CBP had stopped more than 3,000 special interest aliens at the southern border and explained that “special interest aliens” are “people who come from countries that have ever produced a terrorist.” Wallace added, “They aren’t terrorists themselves” and noted that the State Department said that there was “no credible evidence of any terrorist coming across the border from Mexico.”
Sanders responded, “We know that there are nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists [that] come into our country illegally and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border.”
Wallace interrupted, “I know that statistic. I didn’t know if you were going to use it, but I studied up on this. You know where those 4,000 people come from, where they are captured? Airports!”
“Not always,” Sanders retorted.
“The State Department says there hasn’t been any terrorist that they’ve found coming across the southern border,” Wallace fired back.
“It’s by air, it’s by land, it’s by sea, it’s all of the above,” Sanders answered.
“But they’re not coming across the southern border, Sarah,” Wallace said, ‘They’re coming and they’re being stopped at airports.”
I had also heard the Homeland Security statistics and Trump’s claims about terrorists coming from Mexico. They didn’t ring true. Think about how the Trump Administration reacts when an illegal alien commits a violent. Both perpetrator and victim are featured prominently in talking points and the president’s tweets. Over the past few years, we have seen this pattern with Kate Steinle, Mollie Tibbets, and the recent murder of police Corporal Ronil Singh in California.
But when it comes to terrorists crossing the Mexican border, the Trump Administration has been astonishingly silent. If terrorists were being captured as they crossed the border from Mexico, it seems likely that the Trump Administration would be marching them before the media to make the case for the border wall. They haven’t.
Instead, we have a bait-and-switch. Trump surrogates like Sanders make two separate claims and link them together. On one hand, Sanders makes the verifiable claim that “there are nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists [that] come into our country illegally.” On the other, she offers an opinion that “our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border.” Sanders dishonestly leads the viewer to make the erroneous connection that the 4,000 terrorists were apprehended at the Mexican border, when, in fact, they were apprehended at airports.
Border security is a legitimate concern, both at the Mexican border and at airports, but the revelation that the Trump Administration has been purposely misleading the country about how terrorists enter the country undercuts the already shaky case for a border wall.
In fact, current security at the Mexican border seems to be working pretty well. The migrant caravan, which was pitched as an “invasion” in October, is still sitting in Tijuana where its members are waiting to legally apply for asylum. Illegal border crossings have already been declining for years, hitting a 46-year low in 2017. For more than a decade now, most illegal aliens have entered the country legally and overstayed visas rather than sneaking across the Mexican border. By 2014, two-thirds of new illegals were visa overstays.
While it certainly isn’t impossible that terrorists could sneak across the Mexican border, possibly through one of the innumerable tunnels that run underneath current physical barriers, there is no evidence that they are doing so. If conservatives want to make dispassionate policy decisions and use taxpayer money to the greatest advantage for the country, facts support the idea that border security money should be focused toward tracking aliens who enter the country legally on visas and then drop out of sight.
The Trump Administration loses more of its credibility, which is already in short supply, when they make false claims such as advancing the idea that terrorists are streaming across the Mexican border. Kudos to Chris Wallace and Fox News for setting the record straight.