Concerns have been mounting over the security of the U.S. southern border, especially regarding extremist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. The U.S. Border Patrol reported a notable increase in encounters last fiscal year with people on the federal government’s official watchlist of known or suspected terrorists and their associates.
Hezbollah is a Lebanese Islamist political party and militant group, led since 1992 by its Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. It is an Iran-backed, Shiite Muslim political party founded in the 1980s amid the 15-year Lebanese Civil War, according to ABC News.
Hamas is an Islamist political and military organization currently governing the Gaza Strip of the Palestinian territories. Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7.
Critics of President Joe Biden’s administration assert that the current border policies have exposed the country to significant national security risks. Representative Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) stressed the potential catastrophic consequences, emphasizing that a small number of terrorists gaining access to the country could lead to devastating harm. Critics say the borders are wide open, and that is potentially dangerous.
However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has stressed that the rise in terrorist watchlist hits corresponds to the overall surge in border crossings. The DHS maintains that each encounter does not necessarily indicate a terrorist attempting to enter the U.S., Bloomberg Government reported.
“There is no particular reason to fear that the numbers directly translate into an increased security threat,” said former DHS official Tom Warrick told Bloomberg Government.
Still, the surge in encounters in recent years has been a cause for concern, says Bishop.
The U.S. Border Patrol reported almost 100 encounters last fiscal year of people whose names appeared on the federal government’s official list of known or suspected terrorists and their associates, up from 16 the previous year. The Border Patrol manages vast areas between official entry points at the U.S. borders with Mexico, Canada, and some coastal waters, reported 98 encounters last fiscal year of people whose names appeared on a list of known or suspected terrorists and their associates.
“You don’t need that many terrorists to enter the country to cause spectacular harm,” Bishop said during a recent House hearing on border security.
One incident the Federal Bureau of Investigation stopped a plot involving Iraqi nationals aiming to infiltrate the U.S. and support a designated foreign terrorist organization, ISIS. In 2022, the FBI announced it had nabbed a plot for four Iraqi nationals to cross the U.S.-Mexico border and assassinate former President George W. Bush in revenge for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
On May 19, 2023, a letter was issued by the House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Mark E. Green, MD (R-TN), Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY), and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The letter noted that the House Committee on Homeland Security was investigating how DHS is handling the elevated national security risk presented by an increasing number of known or suspected terrorists illegally crossing our Southwest border.
Migrants who crossed the Rio Grande and entered the U.S. from Mexico are lined up for processing by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, on Sept. 23, 2023, in Eagle Pass, Texas. The U.S.-Mexico border and immigration are creating political and security challenges for President Joe Biden. Even some of his top allies worry about those issues’ effects on his reelection chances. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)