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Confronting the Threat at the Southwest Border

The US House Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Homeland Security has recently issued an interim report "summarizing its findings regarding the criminal activity and violence taking place along the Southwest border of the United States between Texas and Mexico." Its findings are troubling though not unexpected, including the state of drug cartel-related violence along the border (which, in Mexico, now includes beheadings), armed attacks on US Border Patrol agents, the alarming rate of illegal alien sex offenders, and human smuggling.

Of particular note in the Congressional Report, A Line in the Sand: Confronting the Threat at the Southwest Border (PDF), is the following regarding the rate of OTM's (Other Than Mexicans) from "special interest" countries known to produce and harbor Islamic terrorists.

The number of aliens other than Mexican (“OTMs”) illegally crossing the border has grown at an alarming rate over the past several years. Based on U.S. Border Patrol statistics there were 30,147 OTMs apprehended in FY2003, 44,614 in FY2004, 165,178 in FY2005, and 108,025 in FY2006. Most of them were apprehended along the U.S. Southwest border.

The sheer increase of OTMs coming across the border makes it more difficult for Border Patrol agents to readily identify and process each, thereby increasing the chances that a potential terrorist could slip through the system. Moreover, there is no concrete mechanism for determining how many OTMs evade apprehensions and successfully enter the country illegally.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) pays particular attention to OTMs apprehended by the Border Patrol who originate from thirty-five nations designated as “special interest” countries. According to Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar, special interest countries have been “designated by our intelligence community as countries that could export individuals that could bring harm to our country in the way of terrorism.” ...

The data indicates that each year hundreds of illegal aliens from countries known to harbor terrorists or promote terrorism are routinely encountered and apprehended attempting to enter the U.S. illegally between Ports of Entry. Just recently, U.S. intelligence officials report that seven Iraqis were found in Brownsville, Texas in June 2006.103 In August 2006, an Afghani man was found swimming across the Rio Grande River in Hidalgo, Texas;104 as recently as October 2006, seven Chinese were apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley area of Texas.

Items have been found by law enforcement officials along the banks of the Rio Grande River and inland that indicate possible ties to a terrorist organization or member of military units of Mexico.106 A jacket with patches from countries where al Qa’ida is known to operate was found in Jim Hogg County, Texas by the Border Patrol. The patches on the jacket show an Arabic military badge with one depicting an airplane flying over a building and heading towards a tower, and another showing an image of a lion’s head with wings and a parachute emanating from the animal. The bottom of one patch read “martyr,” “way to eternal life” or “way to immortality.”

Being the world's most open society has always been a source of liberty-inspired pride. In today's world, it is also a source of very real potential peril.