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Experts Debunk "Terrorist Border Crossing" Hype

May 24, 2023 (1 min read)

Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, May 24, 2023

"“Hundreds of people on our terrorist watch list are crossing our borders.” — Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), in his presidential announcement speech, May 22.  In a speech formally announcing that he is running for the GOP nomination for president, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina made this claim as part of an attack on President Biden’s handling of immigration policy. It’s an interesting example of how politicians can twist facts and make a misleading impression. ... That brings us to the second part of Scott’s statement — that these people are “crossing our borders.” They aren’t. The people listed in the data cited by Scott’s spokesman were stopped at the border; they did not cross. As for the people who tried to sneak over, they may have briefly entered the country but they were caught. Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, an immigration law professor at Cornell Law School, said using the phrase “crossing our borders” was an exaggeration. “They were caught at the border, either at a port of entry or between a port of entry,” he said. “So perhaps ‘caught attempting to cross the border’ would be more accurate.” Denise L. Gilman, co-director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, noted in an email that the encounters with people on the watch list are not common and the “numbers are minuscule in the scheme of the numbers of border crossers who arrive in the United States.” Both Gilman and Yale-Loehr noted that not everyone on the watch list is a terrorist. “It is well documented that many people are erroneously placed on watch lists and that there are other significant problems with these lists so that an encounter with a person on the list does not really mean an encounter with a terrorist,” Gilman said. Scott’s statement “forms part of a trend that suggests that there are security risks or crises at the border when there is simply no evidence that asylum seeker arrivals at the border raise any security threat,” she added."