With the 2016 presidential election approaching and the issue of illegal immigration coupled with terrorism a major concern for the people of the United States, a story comes to us via The Washington Times of a smuggling network that transports individuals from the terrorist training camps in the Middle East, through Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, and up through Central America and Mexico before crossing into the United States.
Immigration officials have identified at least a dozen Middle Eastern men smuggled into the Western Hemisphere by a Brazilian-based network that connected them with Mexicans who guided them up to the U.S. border, according to internal government documents reviewed by The Washington Times.
Those smuggled included Palestinians, Pakistanis and the Afghan man who Homeland Security officials said had family ties to the Taliban and was “involved in a plot to conduct an attack in the U.S. and/or Canada.” He is in custody but the Times is withholding his name at the request of law enforcement to protect ongoing investigations.
The documents were aquired by the online news outlet from Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a tireless advocate for border security. In the telling from immigration and law enforcement officials, the Afghan man, who remains unnamed along with the name of the pipeline itself due to ongoing investigations, was nabbed fifteen miles inside the U.S. border after having crawled under the border fence in Arizona, and then only identified after running his name and biometric markers through an FBI database. (It seems that the Immigration, Department of Homeland Security, and FBI databases are not synced.) Other people caught by the border patrol and ICE officials coming through the southern border were identified, but not with the biometric markers provided by officials in the countries along the route.
The government documents also said some of the special interest aliens caught at the border were previously identified by authorities in other Latin American countries — but had different sets of biometric identifiers associated with them. That raised questions of whether those countries are sharing accurate information with the U.S.
Networks capable of smuggling potential terrorists has long been a concern, but the Obama administration had tamped down those worries, arguing that the southwest border wasn’t a likely route for operatives.
Such networks and pipelines may not have been a concern for the administration, but anyone with a modicum of common sense figured the sieve that is the southern border would be a magnet for terrorists who couldn’t get into the U.S. through regular channels. Talk about a no-brainer.
“It’s disturbing, in so many ways,” said Joe Kasper, Mr. Hunter’s chief of staff. “The interdiction of this group validates once again that the southern border is wide open to more than people looking to enter the U.S. illegally strictly for purposes of looking for work, as the administration wants us to believe. What’s worse, federal databases weren’t even synched and Border Patrol had no idea who they were arresting and the group was not considered a problem because none of them were considered a priority under the president’s enforcement protocol. That’s a major problem on its own, and it calls for DHS to figure out the problem — and fast.”
The arrest of the group of Middle Eastern men was considered a “success” as the administration managed to catch the illegals, but the telling of the story identified a number of breakdowns in the over all system which is concerning to Hunter. Hunter did write a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson regarding the disturbing revelations.
In the meantime, a program known as Operation Citadel is busy identifying smuggling routes and shutting them down. The government has no comment at this time, and unlike in previous stories about exposed smuggling rings, is not advertising the price that is paid for an individual to be smuggled to the United States from the south. (One bust in 2014 told of people paying $8,000 a piece to enter the country illegally.)
Lev Kubiak, assistant director at ICE Homeland Security Investigations’ international operations branch, testified to Congress earlier this year that Operation Citadel resulted in 210 criminal arrests in 2015. One part of the effort, known as Operation Lucero, dismantled 14 human smuggling routes, including some operations designed to move people from the Eastern Hemisphere to Latin America and then into the U.S., he said.
All the more reason to take the idea of permanently securing the southern border seriously.