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Trump Administration Admits They Were Wrong About Terrorism at Border Stats
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9 Jan 2019 07:41 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Members of the migrant caravan (Image source: Wotancito via Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

It's been a claim of Donald Trump's since he first announced he was running for president in 2015 that there were nefarious people crossing the border illegally. Over the past few months he has insisted that the migrant caravan included terrorists, and the administration was issuing stats about the large number of suspected terrorists that crossed the United States/Mexico border in the past year. 

However, a report was released this week that stated there were only six known terrorists who crossed the border over the past year, When you look at the ratio of the large number of people as a whole who have crossed the border, those six people aren't that many at all.

 

Despite that, Trump still appeared on nationwide television Tuesday night discussing the "crisis" at the border and used that as reasoning for the border wall. He went as far as to shut the government down three weeks ago just because lawmakers are uninterested in giving him $5 billion for the wall. 

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House spokeswoman, said last Friday that Customs and Border Protection officials caught almost 4,000 known or suspected terrorists "that came across our southern border."

 

She appeared on talk shows throughout the weekend repeating that same claim. Vice President Mike Pence said the same on Tuesday during an interview on "Good Morning America." 

However, last September the State Department wrote in their summary of global terrorism threats that analysts found "no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups ... sent operatives via Mexico into the United States.'

 

NBC News reported on Monday that the number of known or suspected terrorists caught along the southern border in the first half of 2018 was about one percent of what the Trump administration was claiming. 

According to the data from Customs and Border Protection that was provided to Congress, they stopped 41 people on the Terrorist Screening database from October 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018.  35 of those were American citizens or lawful permanent residents, and only six were non-U.S. people.

 

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway acknowledged to Fox News that Sanders combined two different sets of statistics while trying to argue her point. In fiscal year 2017 federal officials stopped 3,755 people on that terrorist list, but that includes people who traveled through airports, seaports, and land ports. Most of them tried to enter the U.S. by air. 

That was an unfortunate misstatement," she said. "Everybody makes mistakes, all of us. The fact is it's corrected here."

 

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said on Monday she did not provide an exact number of how many on the terrorist watch list were stopped at the southern border, as it was "sensitive" and could not be released publicly. Her department did not dispute the accuracy of a report by NBC News that found 41 known or suspected terrorists were caught there. 

Officials continued to try to find stats to back their point of the need for the wall. In 2018 the agency came across 3,000 "special interest aliens" at the U.S./Mexico border. But that doesn't indicate that there was any intelligence to deem them a terrorist, only that the people came from 35 countries that have been of special interest since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

 

After tweeting that the number of "terror-watchlisted" increased at the southern border over the past two years, Nielsen clarified that being a "special interest alien" doesn't make the individual a national security threat," seemingly backing down from her claim as well as Sanders'. 

"This does not mean that all (special interest aliens) are 'terrorists,' but rather that the travel and behavior of such individuals indicates a possible nexus to nefarious activity (including terrorism) and, at a minimum, provides indicators that necessitate heightened screening and further investigation," she argued.

 

"The term (special interest alien) does not indicate any specific derogatory information about the individual — and DHS has never indicated that the (special interest alien) designation means more than that." 

No matter how you spin the statistics, there were still far less known terrorists who crossed the U.S./Mexico that Sanders and Pence were stating.

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