Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) warned Sunday that the U.S. must be vigilant against possible security threats that could emerge if the Islamic State tries to work with Mexican drug cartels, and said the cartels have shown they are willing to work with anyone to gain more power and money.
Cotton, who won his Senate race against outgoing Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), noted that people who are affiliated with Hezbollah have been indicted in the U.S. before, and said affiliations with the Islamic State could be next.
"Hezbollah has tried to launch terrorist attacks right here in Washington DC," he said on Meet the Press. "They're under federal indictment, collaborating with locals in Mexico to cross our border to attack us here."
Cotton wasn't specific, but some people affiliated with Hezbollah have been indicted, including a man who was trying to import cocaine into the United States. He added that Mexican drug cartels have indicated a willingness to expand beyond the drug trade and move into kidnapping and other crimes, and said the Islamic State could move them in that direction.
Additionally, a former Bush administration official, Roger Noriega, testified in 2011 that Hezbollah operatives are known to have provided weapons and training to drug traffickers along the border.
"As long as our border is open, and it's defenseless, then it's not just an immigration issue, it's a national security issue," he said.
"And we know that these drug cartels in Mexico are focused primarily on power and profit," Cotton added. "They'll branch out into any activity if it brings them more money and helps them consolidate control."
Republicans have been critical of the Obama administration's effort to tighten the border, as well as its effort to fight the Islamic State, and have said the administration's failure on both issues is leaving Americans exposed to a possible attack.
Many Democrats have responded by saying Republicans are trying to sow discontent with the Obama administration by warning about the possibility of Islamic State attacks from across the border. But when asked if he was "fear mongering," Cotton said the terrorist group itself has said it wants to attack the United States.
"The Islamic State is cutting the heads off Americans right now, and they're leader has said they want to strike us here in the United States," he said. "That's something that we should be fearful of, and that we should take a strong stance against."
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said earlier this year that 10 Islamic State fighters were caught trying to cross the border.
He later clarified his remarks to say terrorist Turks and Syrians were trying to cross over, but said terrorists have still been caught trying to cross, and said that goes against the Obama administration's claim that no terrorists have been caught.