ISIS at the Border

Terrorist infiltration threat increases the stakes.

The staggering numbers alone prove there is an unprecedented illegal immigration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. In just May of this year, 132,887 people were apprehended between ports of entry on the southwest border with Mexico, the highest monthly figure since March 2006. The number of U.S. Border Patrol southwest border apprehensions for the first 5 months of 2019 is more than 2.6 times greater than the number of apprehensions during the same period last year. “We are bursting at the seams,” Randy Howe, executive director of Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations, told reporters last week. “It’s unsustainable and this can’t continue.”

As far as open border Democrats are concerned, however, the only crisis at the U.S. border with Mexico is the plight of the many thousands of migrants themselves as they try to manipulate our loophole-ridden asylum system or otherwise try to enter the country illegally. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives refuses to fix the asylum mess, or to provide monies for effective border security that must include barriers erected in vulnerable locations. Instead, they passed an amnesty bill last week for more than 2 million so-called “dreamers” whose parents brought them to this country illegally as children and individuals who had been designated for “Temporary Protected Status.”

Beyond the sheer number of illegal migrants overrunning the border and straining our resources, the surging flow of migrants traversing Mexico into the United States poses a serious national security risk. Open border Democrats could care less. They say not to worry about terrorists crossing the U.S.-Mexico border since no terrorist attack linked to such migration has happened yet. Beto O’Rourke said during a campaign rally, for example, "[Z]ero, precisely zero, terrorists, terrorist groups, or terror plots have ever been connected with the U.S.-Mexico border to do harm to people within the United States." Proponents of such a pre-9/11 attitude are either clueless or, in the case of the radical left, are part of the red-green axis. 

The hate-Trump media are just as reckless. The Washington Post, for example, tried to dismiss concern about possible Islamist terrorist exploitation of southern border migration routes as much ado about nothing. The fact-challenged “Fact Check” writer for the New York Times, Linda Qiu, criticized President Trump for reviving “an old and still unproved rumor that hints that Islamic migrants were entering the United States through Mexico and could pose a terrorism threat.”

Fortunately, diligent researchers at the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) have taken the terrorist threat seriously. They went into the field and conducted interviews with ISIS defectors, returnees and imprisoned ISIS cadres.

Last month, ICSVE interviewed a captured ISIS operative, who is a Canadian with dual Trinidadian citizenship going by the name of Abu Henricki. He provided a chilling first-hand account of the terrorist organization’s plan to smuggle operatives through the southern border with Mexico “by infiltrating migration routes.” The report of the interview appeared in Homeland Security Today.  The report’s authors explained that they wanted it to serve as a “reminder to diligently consider leads and sources that confirm terrorists’ intentions to exploit one of the weakest links in our national security: our borders.”

Abu Henricki described to his interviewers the route ISIS planned to use to smuggle him into the United States. “They were going to move me to the Mexican side [of the U.S. southern border] via Puerto Rico,” he explained. “This was mastermind[ed] by a guy in America. Where he is, I do not know. That information, the plan came from someone from the New Jersey state from America. I was going to take a boat [from Puerto Rico] into Mexico. He was going to smuggle me in. I don’t know where I’d end up.”

The objective of the ISIS operation was reportedly to have Henricki and other recruits from the Western Hemisphere who could speak English work their way into jobs at U.S. banks or other financial institutions.  Once on the inside, they could more easily elude the companies’ internal information technology security systems and cause mischief in their networks. Henricki claimed he was told that ISIS’s objective was to “cripple the U.S. economy.” He said that he refused to take part in the ISIS plot, as a result of which he and his wife were mistreated brutally as ISIS prisoners. He surrendered to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces earlier this year.

“This type of person would be very effective at exploiting a corporate network and causing massive amounts of damage,” Alex Hamerstone, the governance, risk, and practice lead at global security firm TrustedSec, told Fox News. “Think about what an insider in IT aligned with terrorists could do,” he noted. “What's really scary to think about is that an insider can do almost anything to a company. There are very few limits on the type of damage a rogue employee could cause,” he added.

Fortunately, our federal law enforcement agencies realize the clear link between border security and national security and are trying to do something about it. Last April, the Department of Justice announced that Moayad Heider Mohammad Aldairi, a Jordanian operating in Monterrey, Mexico, pleaded guilty to charges involving the smuggling of at least six Yemeni migrants across the Mexico-Texas border. Yemen is home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Islamic State, and the Iranian-backed Houthis whose slogan is "God is great, death to the US, death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam."

The San Antonio Express-News cited law enforcement sources for reporting that “some of the six Yemenis were on terror watch lists,” although officials at a news conference discussing the case would not confirm this report.

“I’m not going to comment on any specifics of these men,” John Bash, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas said, as reported by the San Antonio Express-News. His district includes hundreds of miles along the border with Mexico. “But it just stands to reason, generally, that if we have an open border where people from countries with (a) large terrorist presence, that would like to inflict harm on the United States, can just walk across the border and skip all of the vetting and checks we do when someone flies in to this country, eventually someone is going to take advantage of it.”

“Aldairi provided construction hard hats and reflective vests to some of the aliens in an effort to enable them to blend in after crossing,” the Department of Justice stated in its press release announcing the guilty plea. Mr. Bash said that the men were heading to Chicago, New York or other major U.S. cities.

If Aldairi had not been taken down, his operation may reportedly have expanded. He is said to have been planning the coordination of travel routes to the United States through the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, among other transit points.  

Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski described what was at stake in dismantling Aldairi’s smuggling operation involving illegal aliens from terrorist prone countries. “When Mohammad Aldairi illegally smuggled multiple Yemeni aliens across our southwest border, he put the security of the United States in peril,” Mr. Benczkowski said. “The Department of Justice cannot — and will not — tolerate such threats to our national security. The Criminal Division remains dedicated to prosecuting alien smugglers, especially criminals like Aldairi who attempt to sneak aliens from countries of interest into the United States.”

How many Mohammad Aldairis are still lurking in the shadows smuggling illegal aliens into the U.S. from terrorist hotspots? How many potential recruits from the Western Hemisphere like Abu Henricki will be successfully lured by ISIS for its infiltration missions? We simply cannot afford to play Russian roulette with the lives of the American people.

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