If you thought the last wave of migrants to reach the southern border was big, just wait until the one currently traveling through Panama arrives. Panama’s foreign minister warned that 100,000 migrants are en route to the U.S. To date this year, U.S. Border Patrol agents conducting biometric testing at migrant camps in Panama have identified 52 persons “in some way affiliated with al-Qaeda,” according to reporter Chuck Holton. That’s nearly three times the number of al-Qaeda operatives that perpetrated the hijackings of 9/11. And that’s just the terrorists we’ve caught.
For younger readers who know about the 9/11 attacks as history, not a memory (anyone under 25), America resolved to preempt future attacks by pursuing and destroying terrorist networks around the world. This led to the invasion of Afghanistan and ousting of the Taliban government, which had provided al-Qaeda with a safe haven. Al-Qaeda’s power has never been the same since. It tried to reconstitute itself in different nations and under different names (including ISIS), but each time American-led forces crushed it.
But now, in the same year that America withdraws from Afghanistan, ceding control of the country to the Taliban, persons tied to al-Qaeda are once again trying to infiltrate the United States. While there may be no direct, causal link between America’s flight from Afghanistan and the resurgence of al-Qaeda operatives aiming for the border, both point to the fact that the U.S. is less secure against terror threats today than it was a year ago.
“The really scary thing is that so many of these people are not on any list at all,” continued Holton. Border
Patrol agents not only encounter Latin Americans in Panama, but also “people from Afghanistan, and Syria, and Bangladesh, and Indonesia, and Somalia, and all over Africa.” Many present no official documents; either “they don’t have a passport, or they hide it.” If someone grew up in, say, Syria, they have no “biometric history floating around out there.” A 20-year-old Syrian would have been an infant when American forces exploded the al-Qaeda network. If terror cells are radicalizing and recruiting young men from obscure regions with no records, there is no way for border agents to detect such would-be terrorists traveling to America. So the 52 persons whom officials apprehended were only the ones with previously known terrorist links; the younger generation of terrorists is undetectable.
Our vulnerability to terrorist infiltration is especially infuriating because it is entirely preventable. Those traveling through Panama “are one hundred percent economic migrants” to the U.S., said Holton. They may have fled war or oppression in their home country, but “they have to cross through sometimes nine or ten other countries that are not facing war or oppression.” Oftentimes, “they’ve been making a living” for years in one of these countries. Thus, they don’t meet the definition of refugees or asylum-seekers. “They’re only now deciding to come to the United States because Joe Biden is president and they know they can get in,” explained Holton.
Many migrants, such as the Haitians in Del Rio earlier this year, traverse the hemisphere to enter the United States. “When Haitians leave Haiti,” Holton said, they “go through South America, and then come up through Colombia, and walk through the dangerous Darien Gap (“a six day walk with no food”) between Colombia and Panama.” From there, they can follow the Pan-American Highway for another 2,500 miles, all the way to the U.S. Somewhere along the way, persons from all over the world, including some with al-Qaeda connections, join the throng.
September 11th ignited a spark in the American people to stand up and fight a war on terror. But the Biden administration, rather than proactively working to protect the American people, has left the border wide open to anyone with any intention. It’s time for the Biden administration to remember what happened on September 11th 20 years ago and to take action to protect the American people.
Family Research Council