‘Many Latin American countries have porous borders, limited law enforcement capabilities and established smuggling routes…’
(Michael Barnes, Liberty Headlines) America’s southern border is “vulnerable to terrorist transit,” according to the U.S. State Department.
The unsettling finding was recently published in the State Department’s “Country Reports on Terrorism,” an annual report produced by the agency’s Bureau of Counterterrorism.
The 340-page unclassified document spans 2017, and is a requirement under the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. Its purpose is to provide Congress with a “full and complete” view of terrorist activities regarding countries and groups of interest.
Normally, the report focuses on how foreign governments are dealing with extremist groups and terrorism within their own borders, mostly in areas of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
But the State Department’s new counter-terrorism report identifies Latin America as another area of concern, where terror threats intertwine with America’s illegal immigration crisis.
“Many Latin American countries have porous borders, limited law enforcement capabilities, and established smuggling routes. These vulnerabilities offer opportunities to foreign terrorist groups,” the report said.
The report went on to say that while this is a major concern, “there have been no cases of terrorist groups exploiting these gaps to move operations through the region.”
That’s hardly a relief, asserts the Center for Immigration Studies, a nonprofit research organization focusing on both legal and illegal immigration policy.
For starters, the report does not address whether unaffiliated small terror cells or home-grown “lone-wolf” terrorists are exploiting immigration gaps, the Center said in its analysis of the State Department report, titled “Terrorist Travel to the United States Southern Border.”
Todd Bensman, a senior national security fellow at CIS and author of the analysis, said that beneath the State Department’s diplomatic language, its new report offers “a rare and informative look at a security threat at our borders.”
“The report shows that smuggling routes through Latin America persist in providing the avenues for extremists, alongside benevolent migrants, to travel from nations where terrorist organizations plan and plot ways to harm the country,” Bensman said.
While this may seem like news, it’s not. Bensman has been sounding the alarm since at least August.
“Migrants from Muslim-majority countries routinely get to the U.S. Southwest border by first reaching Latin America and traveling smuggling routes northward,” he wrote two months ago in a CIS Backgrounder.
“Human smuggling networks that move these so-called ‘special interest aliens’ through Latin America pose a recognized vulnerability of terrorist infiltration, which has driven significant American homeland security efforts to degrade them,” Bensman reported.
Also troubling, is that the Obama administration apparently knew about immigration-linked terror risks but kept it mostly quiet in service to its largely open borders immigration stance.
In June 2016, outgoing Obama administration Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson sent an official memo to the ten top law enforcement heads responsible for border security about the terrorism threat at the southern border.
The subject went almost completely unacknowledged by the administration during its previous seven years.
While the Trump administration has taken a much tougher stance on illegal immigration, the news media has mostly buried the now well-known terror risks.
“No progress will be made without wider American policy recognition of this border threat and then muscular diplomacy and resources necessary to help those countries want to help our own,” Bensman recently concluded.