The Dangerous Myth About Terrorists Crossing the Mexico Border

This article first appeared on the Cato Institute site.

Republican Congressman Scott Perry (PA) was a guest on Tucker Carlson Tonight on January 18 in a segment about the continuing investigation into the Las Vegas shooting earlier this year. Congressman Perry said :

I have been made aware of what I believe to be credible evidence, credible information regarding potential terrorist infiltration through the southern border regarding this incident.

When pressed by another guest, Congressman Perry offered zero evidence but did say that “I have received what I feel to be and believe to be credible evidence of a possible terrorist nexus.”

With all due respect to Congressman Perry’s feelings, they are not evidence and a serious charge like his requires evidence. If he does have such evidence, he should release it immediately.

In researching my 2016 policy analysis on terrorism and immigration, I discovered nine terrorists who planned or carried out terrorist attacks on U.S. soil after entering illegally.* Those nine terrorists killed zero people in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil from 1975 through 2017.

Of those nine terrorists who entered illegally, only three did so along the border with Mexico: Shain Duka, Britan Duka, and Eljvir Duka crossed as children with their parents in 1984.

They are ethnic Albanians from Macedonia. They were three conspirators in the incompetently planned Fort Dix plot that the FBI foiled in 2007, long after they became adults and more than two decades after they entered illegally. There is no evidence that the Fort Dix plot was more than 23 years in the making. The Dukas murdered nobody in a terrorist attack.

The border with Mexico is a terrible way for terrorists to attempt to enter the United States, which is why so few have tried. The arguments for additional border security are bad but at least they are grounded in some facts. It is a sign of the desperation of immigration restrictionists that so many have to resort to conspiracy theories about terrorists to justify spending taxpayer dollars on more border security.

More convicted or actual terrorists who planned an attack on U.S. soil actually entered or attempted to do so through the Canadian border. The deadly foreign-born terrorists since 1975 have overwhelmingly used non-immigrant visas to enter. Conspiracy theories about a wide-open southern border that terrorists cross to commit attacks are common but they should not be peddled by a member of Congress.

GettyImages-57166987 NEW YORK - MARCH 23: Traffic makes its way through Times Square on March 23, 2006 in New York City. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) New York and Los Angeles have the most polluted air in the U.S. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images) Michael Nagle/Getty Images

If Congressman Perry does have evidence that a terrorist or terrorists entered through the southern border and committed the Las Vegas attack, I implore him to release it as soon as possible to prove me wrong.

Alex Nowrasteh is an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity

*In my original analysis, I reported that ten foreign-born terrorists initially entered illegally but I incorrectly counted 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ahmed Ajaj as an illegal immigrant when he actually initially entered on a student visa.