Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said Tuesday night that U.S. border officials have caught “at least 10” Islamic State fighters or people with ties to the group as they tried to enter the U.S. through Mexico, a claim that was immediately disputed by the Obama administration.
“I know that at least 10 ISIS fighters have been caught coming across the Mexican border in Texas,” Hunter said on Fox News Tuesday night. “There’s nobody talking about it.”
When asked by host Greta Van Susteren how he knows this, Hunter said, “Because I’ve asked the Border Patrol, Greta.”
The Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman disputed Hunter’s claim on Wednesday morning.
“The suggestion that individuals who have ties to ISIL have been apprehended at the southwest border is categorically false, and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground,” said Marsha Catron. “DHS continues to have no credible intelligence to suggest terrorist organizations are actively plotting to cross the southwest border.”
But Hunter’s office replied by saying Hunter was told directly by a senior official that people with ties to the Islamic State have in fact been apprehended.
“A high level source within the Border Patrol told the congressman otherwise,” said Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper. “The congressman was conveying what he knows — and what he was told. It makes sense that the left hand of DHS doesn’t know what the right hand is doing — it’s been that way for a long time and we don’t expect that to change.”
Hunter said Tuesday that the biggest risk that the Islamic State poses to Americans is by trying to enter the U.S. illegally and committing acts of terrorism.
“If you really want to protect Americans from ISIS, you secure the southern border,” he said. “It’s that simple.”
“ISIS doesn’t have a navy, they don’t have an air force, they don’t have nuclear weapons,” he added. “The only way that ISIS is going to harm Americans is by coming in through the southern border, which they already have.”
The Obama administration has come under increased scrutiny about border enforcement in light of fears that Islamic State fighters could try to enter the U.S. through Mexico. Officials were already under fire for its effort to ease immigration rules, which many Republicans say has created even more incentive for people to try entering the country illegally.
— This story was updated at 10:37 a.m.