Montana is a northern border state with a southern border crisis. After visiting the southern border this fall, my third trip in five years, I can say with certainty that the catastrophe at our southern border is now a serious threat to our national security and the result of the failed policies of President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats.
The facts are frightening.
The State Department designates four countries as state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria. In October, nearly 1,400 people from these four countries entered the U.S., a 35 percent increase since September.
In fiscal year 2023 alone, a record 169 people whose names appear on the terror watchlist were stopped trying to cross the southern border, and recently a smuggler with ISIS ties helped migrants get into the U.S.
In addition, while at the border I was able to witness the detention of four men from Syria who tried crossing the Rio Grande illegally the night before.
All of this leads to the conclusion that the idea of a terror attack happening in the United States is no longer a matter of if but when. Emboldened extremists waging war in the Middle East and a wide-open southern border here at home is a bad combination that leaves us more and more vulnerable to attacks on our soil.
Sadly, we are already seeing troubling signs. In New York, authorities recently arrested a man wanted in Senegal for alleged terrorist activities. He was first encountered by Border Patrol near Lukeville, Arizona, and then released. He then spent two weeks freely roaming the country prior to his arrest.
In Houston, a Jordanian man with a Palestinian passport seeking asylum in the U.S. was recently detained on gun charges as a grave danger after talking martyrdom with others. This individual was training with weapons and learning how to make explosives. And according to the charges from the judge, this was more than just talk. He was in contact with others who also share a radical mindset.
It’s important to note just how we got here. For four years, thanks to hard-nosed policies from President Donald Trump, the border was more secure. President Biden reversed all of that on his first day in office, ending construction on the border wall and the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which required asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while they waited for their initial hearing as well as other effective policies that stemmed the flood of unlawful migrants.
To make matters even worse, there is no consistent policy from the Biden administration. A month ago, the administration granted temporary legal status to thousands of migrants from Venezuela who entered unlawfully. During my visit, it was revoked.
This kind of wishy-washy policymaking compounds problems because it projects weakness and shows those who want to exploit our border that they are able to do so.
All of this comes on the heels of the Biden administration’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan and the spy balloon that flew over our nuclear missile fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base and then floated unabated across the rest of the country.
The bottom line is this: President Biden and congressional Democrats need to get serious quickly about our nation’s national security. When it comes to the border, money alone will not solve the problem. We need policy changes.
I am sponsoring legislation that would help clamp down on the lawlessness we are witnessing at the border. Specifically, we need to complete the border wall, tighten our asylum standards, redefine DHS’ parole power and end Biden’s disastrous “catch and release” policy. All of these policies would go a long way to slowing the flow of migrants, especially those who have ties to countries that are hotbeds for terrorists.
The horrific attacks we saw unfold in Israel a few weeks ago should act as a wakeup call to what is possible here at home.
We must get serious about securing the border now before it’s too late.
Steve Daines is a Republican U.S. senator from Montana.
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