By Tom Ozimek
Republican senators have sounded the alarm on the Biden administration’s border policies after Border Patrol agents caught illegal border crossers who were carrying explosive devices that Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said were “tailor-made for terrorism.”
Mr. Barrasso, who is the Senate Republican Conference Chairman, made the startling revelation at a press conference on Oct. 31, alongside Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), following their recent visit to the U.S.–Mexico border.
The senators said that over 8 million illegal border crossings have taken place under President Joe Biden’s watch, while asserting that explosive devices found on some border crossers in recent days represent an elevated risk of terror acts against the homeland.
“We have just returned from our southern border, and it is painfully clear that with Joe Biden’s open border policy, our country is really at an increased threat for a terrorist attack,” Mr. Barrasso said at Tuesday’s press conference.Several days ago, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents seized illegal immigrants carrying with them improvised explosive devices that Mr. Barrasso said were the “size of cannonballs” and were “tailor-made for terrorism.”
Speaking at the press conference, Mr. Ricketts said that, due to what he said were President Biden’s “failed” border policies, there were 18 people on the terrorist watchlist caught entering the United States illegally in September—and 172 last year.
“To put this in perspective, in years past, that number was single digits,” Mr. Ricketts said.
“We’re opening ourselves up for a terrorist attack.”
Terror Threat Rises
An elevated terror threat against the United States and its citizens has also been flagged by FBI Director Christopher Wray, who issued a stark warning while testifying before Congress on Oct. 31.
Mr. Wray told lawmakers that, since the Oct. 7 attack by the Hamas terror group against Israeli civilians and soldiers, there have been multiple foreign terrorist organizations calling for attacks against Americans and the West, significantly raising the threat posed by what he described as “homegrown extremists.”
“The actions of Hamas and its allies will serve as an inspiration the likes of which we haven’t seen since ISIS launched its so-called caliphate several years ago,” Mr. Wray said, referring to the terrorist organization that captured swathes of Iraq and Syria about a decade ago before the United States deployed troops in the region to battle the group.
But the terror threat has been on the rise for some time. Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a terror alert, saying that the United States is in a “heightened threat environment,” citing in part individuals with links to foreign terrorist organizations who may target schools, government facilities, or critical infrastructure.
In September, over 269,000 people were caught crossing the U.S.–Mexico border illegally, a record high for a single month.
Mr. Barrasso said that the number of illegal border crossings has “gotten so bad that Homeland Security has raised the terror threat because so many people are coming in illegally and there are so many gotaways—people that run and hide in an effort to not be detected.”
There have been 1.7 million “gotaways” since President Biden assumed office, according to the House Committee on Homeland Security.
Gotaways In Focus
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who testified alongside Mr. Wray on Capitol Hill, told lawmakers that over 600,000 illegal immigrants evaded capture during the 2023 fiscal year, although he argued that “the phenomenon of gotaways is something that has been a challenge for the Department of Homeland Security for decades.”
“In fact, it is a powerful example of a broken immigration system,” he added.
But Mr. Ricketts argued that the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the Biden administration.
“Joe Biden has created this crisis,” he said.
Speaking at the press conference, Mr. Cornyn said that a key problem is that the Biden administration doesn’t know who the gotaways are, yet they likely “have a good reason for running away from law enforcement.”
Mr. Ricketts said the “single biggest thing” that the president could do is restore the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy.
“You would have consequences for coming here illegally and you would end the waves of people coming here,” he said.
The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), dubbed the “Remain in Mexico” program, was a Trump-era policy under which asylum-seekers were made to wait in Mexico for their U.S. court hearings.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment on statements blaming the president for the border crisis.
In response to the latest illegal immigration data from September, CBP said that it has deployed more resources and will “remain vigilant.”
“CBP will continue to remain vigilant, making operational adjustments as necessary and enforcing consequences under U.S. immigration law,” CPB official Troy Miller said, adding that President Joe Biden’s supplemental funding request includes money for “critically needed” additional resources to help with the border crisis.
President Biden on Oct. 20 called on Congress to approve another $105 billion in funding, with the bulk going to bolster U.S. support for Israel and Ukraine as they fight separate wars.
Roughly $13.6 billion has been earmarked for border protection, including money for hiring an additional 1,300 border patrol agents and 1,600 new asylum officers.