Forget immigration: The Islamic State may be the best reason yet to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.
Bloomberg News reports IS militants have discussed breaching the U.S. through the southern border. "There have been Twitter and social media exchanges among ISIL adherents across the globe speaking about that as a possibility," Francis Taylor, an undersecretary for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security, told Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday.
But Taylor added that DHS has not seen any credible evidence of a threat from IS to targets on U.S. soil.
Does this sound familiar? It should: Texas Gov. Rick Perry warned the audience at a Heritage Foundation conference on border security and immigration in August that IS militants "may have already slipped across the Mexican border."
"I think there is the obvious, great concern that — because of the condition of the border from the standpoint of it not being secure and us not knowing who is penetrating across — that individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be," Perry said, although he conceded that there was currently "no clear evidence" that terrorists have entered the U.S. illegally across the southern border.
Some observers dismissed Perry's claim as "absurd." And it kind of was at the time. Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby rejected the claim. "I’ve seen no indication that they are coming across the border with Mexico. We have no information that leads us to believe that," Kirby told CNN.
But Kirby agreed that IS infiltrating the U.S. through its underbelly was a possibility. "We do know they have aspirations to hit western targets and it’s something, as [Defense] Secretary Hagel said yesterday, that we’ve got to take seriously and with have to try to be ready for it,” Kirby said.
Taylor's testimony is consistent with what Homeland Security has said in the past. In 2012, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress that terrorists enter the U.S. from Mexico “from time to time." And a 2009 report from the Government Accountability Office noted that U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoints reported that “there were three individuals encountered by the Border Patrol at southwest border checkpoints who were identified as persons linked to terrorism," in 2008.
Taylor's testimony comes as President Obama prepares to announce his strategy for dealing with IS Wednesday evening. While the president currently benefits from a consensus over the militants in Washington, chances are Taylor's words will end up hurting the White House and Democrats on immigration reform rather than helping them on foreign policy.
As Perry would say: Oops.