Border (in)security — One big gamble

There are many reasons why a secure border is critically important for the U.S. The lack of a secure border amplifies the devastating impacts of illegal drug smuggling and the associated fentanyl overdose crisis, human trafficking, the spread of infectious disease, census inaccuracies, voter fraud, identity theft, and the unsustainable drain on our social service, medical, educational, and criminal justice resources.

All these reasons pale in comparison to the national security threat that an open border creates in the form of a terrorist attack from within or, even more nefariously, through a slow subversion of our systems, our infrastructure, our resources, our independence, our culture — all of which are susceptible to the actions of an adversary, be it a terror cell or nation-state. 

Oddly, it is becoming fashionable to write off such a concern as xenophobic and hyperbolic. 

Last year we recognized the 20-year anniversary of the 9-11 terror attacks. “Never Forget,” a universal rallying cry to recognize the importance of remaining vigilant against the threat of terrorism, has sadly become an empty slogan.

The investigations of 9-11 concluded that the U.S. failed to properly connect the dots and prevent the terrorists from carrying out their attacks. Overstayed visas, lack of intelligence intercepts, and a lack of follow-through on suspicious activity were identified as contributing factors. 

Interestingly, our poor border security was also recognized in bipartisan fashion as a significant national security threat.    

“Since the terrorist attacks on September 11th, we can no longer tolerate policies that fail to protect and control our borders,” Senator Edward Kennedy, Democrat (Congressional Record 2004b).

“One of the many lessons of September 11th is that we cannot be too careful when it comes to our national immigration policy” Congressman Richard Baker, Republican (Congressional Record 2004a).

“The nexus between our post-Sept. 11 mission and our traditional mission is clear…Terrorists and violent criminals may exploit smuggling routes used by immigrants to enter the United States illegally and do us harm” David Aguilar, former Border Patrol Chief (Archibold 2006: 26).

Our political leaders are plagued by short memories.

The threat presented by an open border has increased exponentially since 9-11 given the explosion of illegal crossings and the increased awareness that, at least for now, the U.S. government seems comfortable looking the other way. 

As recent as 2020, it was shown that illegal border crossings could be blunted through strong policy messaging and firm enforcement at the border. Illegal border crossing encounters in FY 2020 averaged just 38,000/month. 

Unfortunately, the current administration’s policies and actions have created an illegal border crossing crisis. In fiscal year 2022, illegal border crossing encounters exploded to record levels, averaging nearly 200,000/month, representing a 425% increase over 2020.  More importantly, the number of “got aways,” those who were not encountered or detained by border patrol agents, has been estimated at over 1 million people.

The Border Patrol has officially reported that in FY 2022, 98 people on the terror watch list were identified and detained by the Border Patrol as part of illegal border crossing encounters. This number of terror watch list detentions represented an increase of 600% over 2021. Given the number of “got aways” occurring, how many terror watch list individuals weren’t detected or detained? We have no way of knowing. 

There are many who argue that there is no connection between illegal border crossings and the threat of terrorist activity. They cite the “fact” that those crossing the border are just looking for a better life, or the even weaker “no one has done it yet, so….” If the current administration believes this, it is evidence of their naiveté.

I believe the administration understands the threat, but is arrogant enough to roll the dice anyway, hoping to cash in politically with its “progressive” immigration stance. It’s a gamble no administration has the right to make, and one that makes us all unnecessarily vulnerable to the whims of our adversaries.