Yesterday Gen. John F. Kelly of the U.S. Southern Command, testified before Congress (pdf file here) on national security risks at the open southern border:
Transnational Organized Crime.
The spread of criminal organizations continues to tear at the social, economic, and security fabric of our
Central American neighbors. Powerful and wellresourced,
these groups traffic in drugs—including cocaine, heroin, marijuana, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, and methamphetamine—small arms and explosives, precursor chemicals, illegally mined gold, counterfeit goods, people, and other
contraband. They engage in money laundering, bribery, intimidation, and assassinations. They threaten the very underpinnings of democracy itself: citizen safety, rule of law, and economic prosperity. And they pose a direct threat to the stability of our partners and an insidious risk to the security of our nation.
While there is growing recognition of the danger posed by transnational organized crime, it is often eclipsed by other concerns. Frankly, Mr. Chairman, I believe we are overlooking a significant security threat. Despite the heroic efforts of our law enforcement colleagues, criminal organizations are constantly adapting their methods for trafficking across our borders. While there is not yet any indication that the criminal networks involved in human and drug trafficking are interested in supporting the efforts of terrorist groups, these networks could unwittingly, or even wittingly, facilitate the movement of terrorist operatives or weapons of mass destruction toward our borders, potentially undetected and almost completely unrestricted. In addition to thousands of Central Americans fleeing poverty and violence, foreign nationals from countries like Somalia, Bangladesh, Lebanon, and Pakistan are using the region’s human smuggling networks to enter the United States.
While many are merely seeking
economic opportunity or fleeing war, a small subset could potentially be seeking to do us harm. Last year, ISIS adherents posted discussions on social media calling for the infiltration of the U.S. southern
border. Thankfully, we have not yet seen evidence of this occurring, but I am deeply concerned that smuggling networks are a vulnerability that terrorists could seek to exploit.
I am also troubled by the financial and operational overlap between criminal and criminal networks in the region.
Breitbart News reported that nearly 500 immigrants from terrorism-linked countries such as Syria and Iraq were apprehended trying to enter the U.S. illegally in 2014 alone.
Border security is national security.