The New York Times hasn’t tripped over any prayer rugs in Mexico, leading the integrity-impugned paper to cast doubt on a 2019 Washington Examiner report citing border ranchers in New Mexico who claim to have seen these abandoned religious artifacts. But here’s a news flash: Migrants from terrorist-connected countries continue to arrive at America’s southern border.
U.S. Border Patrol agents “routinely encounter SIAs [Special Interest Aliens] at the border,” according to a report written by the staff of the House Homeland Security Committee in 2018. That year, 630 Bangladeshi nationals were arrested trying to enter the U.S. illegally through Laredo, Texas, alone. That was a 300 percent increase from 2017.
Since 2007, U.S. authorities have apprehended 45,000 SIAs by land, sea and air. The Department of Homeland Security says the number of terror watch-listed individuals encountered at the southern border has risen in the last two years.
An SIA, in DHS parlance, is a “non-U.S. person who potentially poses a national security risk to the United States or its interests.” While cautioning that not all SIAs are ‘terrorists,’ DHS noted, “The travel and behavior of such individuals indicates a possible nexus to nefarious activity, including terrorism, and necessitates heightened screening and further investigation.”
Unfortunately, mainstream media outlets remain remarkably incurious about the presence and potential threats posed by SIAs. Without conducting a serious investigation, or even consulting available government reports, The Times seized on a presidential tweet about Islamic “prayer rugs” at the border to brand as “baseless” an assertion that individuals with terrorist ties were making their way through Mexico to the U.S.
“It’s unbelievable that we’re still stuck on prayer rugs when there are [SIAs] all over the place. This constant denialism is making the county more vulnerable,” says Todd Bensman, an analyst with the Center for Immigration Studies.
Author of a forthcoming book, “America’s Covert Border War,” Bensman says national security risks are “elevated,” prayer rugs or not. “For every story that is debunked, there are many more that are confirmed,” said Bensman, who interviewed scores of SIAs and other illegal border crossers while working as a journalist in Texas and, later, with the Texas Department of Public Safety.
DHS, in its report to Congress, says SIA apprehensions have increased. Among the tens of thousands of SIAs who landed in Panama and Colombia since 2014, “nearly all were headed to the United States and originated from the Middle East, Asia and Africa—including Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Bangladesh, India, Eritrea and many others,” the agency stated.
As Europe learned from a string of violent terrorist attacks in recent years, a handful of malicious migrants embedded among millions of asylum-seekers, economic migrants and those fleeing conflicts in the Mideast, Africa and Asia can wreak deadly havoc.
Last month, two U.S. courts opened the door to more manipulation of the asylum process here. Striking down an administration rule requiring migrants traversing Central America to request asylum in the countries they pass through, the courts cleared the way for more SIAs to press their claims at the border.