Several weeks ago, President Obama’s Republican critics came up with a bizarre new accusation: the White House might be letting Ebola into the United States by failing to properly secure the Mexican border. The argument really didn’t make any sense, but some members of Congress repeated the allegations publicly.
The talking point seems to have faded, but it’s replaced by an equally foolish argument. Andrew Kaczynski reports on Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) appearance in Washington, D.C., this morning, where the likely presidential candidate said ISIS terrorists may be – you guessed it – entering the United States through Mexico.
“Individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be, and I think it’s a very real possibility that they have already used that,” Perry said during a speech at the Heritage Foundation Thursday.Perry said he didn’t have any “clear evidence” of that but said “common sense” tells you it could occur, citing crimes from undocumented immigrants.
The governor went on to say that he’s aware of “historic” levels of border crossings from “from countries with terrorist ties.” Which countries? Perry specifically referenced Ukraine – which isn’t at all known for its terrorist ties.
There are two broad problems with the Texas Republican’s argument, both of which are important.
The first area of concern is the simple fact that there’s no evidence – literally, none at all – of ISIS terrorists entering the United States through the southern border with Mexico. In fact, there’s no evidence of ISIS terrorists even trying. I can appreciate the value of shameless demagoguery and baseless fear-mongering as much as the next guy, but exploiting public fears this way is just ugly. Worse, it’s unbecoming of a politician who sees himself as a future national leader.
The second problem is more serious: Perry is working from the premise that President Obama has been lax on border security. Reality tells a very different story.
The Associated Press reported in July:
* In the last budget year, Border Patrol agents arrested about 420,000 people, most of them along the Mexican border. That followed a three-year trend of near record low numbers of apprehensions.* Overall, the number of immigrants caught sneaking across the border remains at near historic low levels.* The last time so few people were arrested at the country’s borders was 1973, when the Border Patrol recorded just fewer than 500,000 arrests.* The number of people being arrested at the border remains dramatically lower than the all-time high of more than 1.6 million people in 2000.
Republicans clearly don’t want to believe this, and have gone to remarkable lengths to block this information from their minds, but Obama really has increased U.S. border security to levels unseen in modern times. That’s not opinion; it’s just reality.
In far-right circles, this myth has taken hold that the president has basically abandoned border security, throwing the doors open to every Ebola-carrying terrorist who wants to walk down Main Street, USA.
The myth is demonstrably wrong. So is Rick Perry.