“Sens. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have all argued that increased border security is required to prevent members of the Islamist militant group from slipping across undetected. They say the flood of migrant children over the summer has exposed just how porous the border is.”
—The Hill, September 16, 2014.
According to experts who have analyzed its statements, the Islamic State is not prioritizing involvement in the United States (or even Israel). For now at least, the group is targeting the “near enemy,” an August 30 New York Times analysis asserts.
“Fawaz A. Gerges, a professor at the London School of Economics and the author of ‘The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global,’ said ISIS had so far consistently focused on what militants call ‘the near enemy’ — leaders of Muslim countries like Bashar al-Assad of Syria — and not ‘the far enemy’ of the United States and Europe.
‘The struggle against the Americans and the Israelis is distant, not a priority,’ he said. ‘It has to await liberation at home.’”
Meanwhile, the 2014 migrant children crisis did not expose “porosity” along the U.S.-Mexico border. The U.S. Border Patrol presence, which has doubled since 2005 [PDF], was sufficient to apprehend and detain the tens of thousands of children arriving across the border, most of whom actually sought out the authorities upon their arrival. (“Generally, the children have been turning themselves in to the first official in a uniform they see after crossing the Rio Grande,” the Associate Press reported in July.) As a recent Border Fact Check post explains, measures of migrant apprehensions and border-zone violence indicate significantly greater security along the U.S.-Mexico border today than ten years ago.
“The recent increase in security at a key Army base near a Mexican border city where Islamic terrorists are confirmed to be operating and planning an attack on the United States indicates that the facility is a target.”
—Judicial Watch, September 4, 2014
The increase in security at Fort Bliss, the “key Army base near a Mexican border city” referred to above, is unrelated to the alleged ISIS threat. The Department of Homeland Security cleared this up in a statement: “There is no credible intelligence to suggest that there is an active plot by ISIL to attempt to cross the southern border.”
Lt. Col. Lee Peters, Fort Bliss and First Armor Division public affairs officer, said, “All of the security measures that we emplaced over the Labor Day weekend and we’re emplacing this week are coincidental to anything that’s going on in the world,” stating that the increase in security was instead a response to the recent shootings at Washington Naval Yard, Fort Hood, and Fort Lee. In general, the FBI has planned to increase security at all military bases. These changes have been in progress since 2013, prior to the Washington Navy Yard shooting, but were fast-tracked after the incident. The changes are also unrelated to any supposed ISIS threat.
“[G]overnment sources reveal that the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) is confirmed to now be operating in Juarez, a famously crime-infested narcotics hotbed situated across from El Paso, Texas.”
—Judicial Watch, August 29, 2014
There has been no threat of ISIS in Ciudad Juárez, according to Mexican authorities in the border city. César Augusto Peniche, the Mexican Attorney-General’s delegate to the state of Chihuahua which includes Juárez, said there was no migration alert, increased violence on the border, or any sort of advisory about the presence of terrorist groups in the city. Additionally, the State Attorney-General’s Office said that until hearing that an internal bulletin from the Texas State Department of Public Safety made this allegation, it was unaware of any supposed threat of a possible terrorist attack from ISIS.
It is worth noting that while Ciudad Juárez has suffered high levels of organized crime-related violence, homicides have declined significantly since 2010, and the violence itself almost never manifested itself across the river in El Paso, Texas, which has the lowest crime rate in the United States among cities of 500,000 people or more [PDF].
“The sheriff said he received an alert bulletin that ISIS — Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — may have formed a terrorist cell in or near Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, a Mexican border city across from El Paso. He said the alert warned law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for such activity.”
—Midland Reporter-Telegram, Midland, Texas, September 6, 2014.
The two sources of information regarding the heightened ISIS risk and the need for increased security are the Judicial Watch website and Midland County, Texas Sheriff Gary Painter. Judicial Watch has not named any sources to substantiate claims of an imminent threat.
The much-cited Sheriff Painter points to the Texas Department of Public Security internal “alert bulletin,” whose text has not surfaced, and the discovery of “Quran books and Muslim clothing” near the border. According to the Midland Reporter-Telegram, “on the issue of distinguishing an ISIS member from a non-extremist Muslim, Painter said he does not know how one would tell ‘one Muslim from the other’ or if there is any difference.” Sheriff Painter’s Midland County, meanwhile, is over 300 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.
Added September 23, 2014:
In remarks yesterday at the Migration Policy Institute, the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Gil Kerlikowske, was unequivocal on the ISIS issue:
"We have not one hint of credible information that ISIS or ISIL is poised or is coming across the Southwest border. None whatsoever."
Kerlikowske did recognize that the situation is complex, though. He added, “That being said, over 400,000 people have been apprehended trying to get into this country. That represents over 140 countries.”