Last week, a California congressman sounded the alarm that a number of individuals belonging to the group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were recently apprehended at the Southern border. But there was just one problem with this accusation: It was completely false.
On Oct. 8, U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter appeared on a Fox News program where he broke the story that ISIS, also referred to as ISIL, had been deterred from entering into the country unlawfully via the U.S.-Mexico border. He is just one of at least four Congressmen who have recently claimed ISIS is on the border – all without evidence to back their claims.
Considering Rep. Hunter’s association with the organized anti-immigrant movement, his reckless fearmongering actually does not seem too out of place.
“I know that at least 10 ISIS fighters have been caught coming across the Mexican border in Texas,” he said on the show, later adding, “If you really want to protect Americans from ISIS, you secure the southern border.”
Hunter claims his source for this information is a border patrol agent that he refuses to name. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) quickly issued a statement that Hunter’s claim was “categorically false.” A DHS spokesperson further elaborated: “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.”
When questioned about the comments a few days later, Hunter backtracked a bit, but still remained steadfast to his claims.
“I should have been more careful talking about ISIS, as opposed to terrorist Turks or terrorist Syrians,” he told CNN.
While it is true that four Turkish nationals were detained trying to enter the United States by way of Mexico in September, the State Department has made it clear they had no ties to ISIS and were not terrorists. Hunter, however, views this as a greater ploy by the government to cover up who is coming into the country via the southern border. According to him, they’re all “guys in black pajamas with black flags and AK-47s.”
He added, “This doesn’t match the narrative that the administration wants to put across that it’s only moms and toddlers and people looking for work that are getting across the border.”
However, given Hunter’s association with the organized anti-immigrant movement, his reckless fearmongering actually does not seem too out of place. Hunter has been a member of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, a group founded by former U.S. Rep. and anti-immigrant hardliner Tom Tancredo. The caucus is a network of legislators in Congress who strive to obstruct integrative legislation while working to pass anti-immigrant bills, all intersecting the interests of the Beltway’s most notorious anti-immigrant organizations including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies, and NumbersUSA.
It also just so happens that Hunter’s negative views of undocumented immigrants and tendencies to tell bold-faced lies run in the family. As highlighted by The Brad Blog, his father, former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter Sr., also embarked on a campaign to publicly vilify undocumented immigrants and advocate for unnecessary voter ID laws.
During an unsuccessful run for president ahead of the 2008 elections, Hunter Sr. warned during a debate that undocumented citizens living in California were “being round up” and “herded into the polls” to vote. And, like father like son, Hunter Sr. was unable to provide any evidence to support these accusations.
ISIS gains attention of other anti-immigrant groups
It seems that Hunter wasn’t the only one in California using the threat of ISIS to argue for a more militarized approach to securing the border. Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), a group with a track record of blaming environmental problems on immigrants, announced plans to release a new ad video that is equal parts bizarre and offensive. Unsurprisingly, CAPS holds close ties FAIR.
With the ad, CAPS proceeds to conflate acts of terrorism committed by religious extremists with immigration. It features a slow zoom toward The White House with a narrator and accompanying text reading, “World Trade Center Bombing 1993. World Trade Center Bombing 2001. Boston Bombing 2013.”
The ad then states, “President Obama, it’s time to get serious about securing our border because terrorists are serious about coming to America.”
It concludes with an image of the U.S. flag waving above the White House fading into ISIS’ distinct black flag. The image is accompanied by text of a quote attributed to ISIS: “We will raise the flag of Allah in The White House.”
While such reckless fearmongering is expected from a group like CAPS, it is completely unacceptable coming from an elected official like Duncan Hunter.
That being said, Hunter’s colleagues in HIRC and the groups that caucus aligns with, like FAIR, have long sought to capitalize on cultural anxieties in order to push an anti-immigrant agenda. When it comes to such dangerous discourse, though, all of our elected officials should be held to a higher standard.