U.S. sheriffs: Open borders lead to heightened terrorist threats

(The Center Square) – Members of the American Sheriff Alliance are calling for immediate action due to heightened terrorist threats they fear exist because of U.S. border policies.

Their call comes as a record number of known, suspected terrorist (KSTs) were apprehended by federal Customs and Border Patrol agents in fiscal 2023, the largest number in recorded history.

Alliance members recently met to discuss “the continued pressure and strain on resources due to the lack of border enforcement throughout the United States, including the alarming statistics of encounters with individuals found to be on the Terrorist Watch List, also known as the Terrorist Screening Dataset,” as well as the influence of the Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

The alliance cites apprehensions of KSTs between ports of entry along the southwest border as cause for concern, stating in the last two years there’s been a 906% increase in encounters. However, a significantly larger number is coming through the northern border. This fiscal year, 432 KSTs were apprehended at the northern border compared to 227 at the southwest border.

They also cite the arrests of individuals with criminal convictions or those wanted by law enforcement, which increased from 6,562 encounters in 2021 to 16,992 in 2022, to 18,586 in 2023, indicating a 183% increase in two years, as previously reported on by The Center Square. The crime data is actually higher when including ICE Enforcement Removal Officer actions.

In fiscal 2022, ICE ERO agents arrested 46,396 noncitizens with criminal histories, including 198,498 associated charges and convictions for 21,531 assault offenses; 8,164 sex and sexual assault offenses; 5,554 weapons offenses; 1,501 homicide-related offenses; and 1,114 kidnapping offenses.

The alliance also points to an unknown number of gotaways, arguing CBP estimates 600,000 this year “but there is no way of knowing the exact numbers. These alarming statistics are extremely concerning to the Alliance, and there are major homeland security concerns with these individuals especially, with the lack of information and vetting as to their intentions, criminal histories, or connections to our adversaries worldwide.”

The gotaway estimate is closer to 1.6 million since January 2021, according to data obtained by The Center Square.

With an influx of people and crime, the alliance says, “the strain on local resources both for border sheriffs and law enforcement across the country who do not have the adequate staffing or funding to respond to this influx of migrants is troubling. The continued effect on communities across the country who are left to deal with violent criminals, illicit narcotics and the increase in overall criminal activity is straining public safety resources, … including housing, medical services, and the judicial system.”

The head of the National Sheriffs’ Association compared the number of fentanyl deaths to a large plane crashing daily.

“When the number of people dying from drug poisonings is equivalent to a 737-airplane crashing each day, and the number of migrants that we are aware of coming across the border could fill the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans weekly, we have to sound the alarm,” Sheriff Greg Champagne of St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, president of the association, said. “If a plane crashed daily, there would be immediate action taken, and yet instead of seeing numbers decrease, we continue to set records for those who are dying from illicit narcotics mostly originating from the drug cartels in Mexico.”

Sheriff Leon Wilmot of Yuma County, Arizona, said the Mexican drug cartels are taking advantage of the border situation.

“The pressure on law enforcement at the local level is unsustainable with the continued daily increases at the southern ports of entry,” Wilmot, also a member of the Western States Sheriffs’ Association, said. “With the sustained unrelenting flow of migrants coming from all over the world and the limited background checks and vetting process, it is concerning who is being released into the interior. The cartels are actively promoting the weak border policies through social media networks, and it is clear they have been, sadly, very successful in their mission.”

Sheriff Tom Schmerber of Maverick County, Texas, and president of the Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition, noted, “While federal, state, and local law enforcement are doing everything they can to keep their local communities secure and ensure humane conditions for migrants who are truly seeking asylum, there is no doubt that the asylum system is being abused and the traditional avenues are overwhelmed to keep up requests forcing the release of these individuals without any accountability. El Mencho, El Mayo, and other troubling cartel criminals will continue to exploit these easy loopholes without action from our elected officials.”

The alliance is calling on elected officials “at every level of government to speak out and draw attention to the need of making proper reforms to these extreme challenges.

“With hundreds of violent criminals entering communities every day around the country as well as the flow of illicit narcotics poisoning our citizens, the Alliance is demanding the rule of law in this country be followed and that all available sanctions and statutes be used to help alleviate the pressure the men and women of law enforcement are facing during this unprecedented period in our nation’s history.”

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