On September 15th, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security refuted several claims made by conservative groups and lawmakers that militants for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria are operating just south of the Texas-Mexico border.
“There is no credible intelligence to suggest that there is an active plot by ISIL (ISIS) to attempt to cross the southern border,” Homeland Security officials said in a written statement to The New York Times.
The statement came the same day Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter appeared on Fox News and reiterated claims, first made to CNN, that copies of the Quran and Muslim clothes have been found near the border.
The ongoing claims partially stem from a recent report from the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, which has said that ISIS militants are plotting to attack U.S. soil from Ciudad Juarez.
Painter told The McAllen Monitor this week that he was tipped off to the clothing and Quran on the border by U.S. Border Patrol agents who shared photos with him. He expanded upon his warnings recently during a talk at the Midland County Republican Women luncheon, The Monitor reported. Painter said he does not know how one would tell “one Muslim from the other,” or if there is any difference between ISIS members and nonextremists, the newspaper reported.
Painter isn’t the only Texas official to weigh in. Gov. Rick Perry told an audience in August at the Heritage Foundation in Washington that “individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be” taking advantage of a porous border, CNN reported.
Perry gave a caveat. “I think it’s a very real possibility that they may have already used that,” Perry said, adding, “We have no clear evidence of that.”
During an appearance on radio program Washington Watch, U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, claimed that ISIS could partner with drug cartels to sneak into the country, Buzzfeed reported.
U.S. Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, D-Texas, told The New York Times “There’s a longstanding history in this country of projecting whatever fears we have onto the border,” O’Rourke said. “In the absence of understanding the border, they insert their fears. Before, it was Iran and al-Qaeda. Now it’s ISIS. They just reach the conclusion that invasion is imminent, and it never is.”
Last August, the Mexican Embassy in the U.S. put out a statement saying there was no evidence that Islamic extremists such as ISIS members had crossed into the U.S. from the Mexican border. The government said this was in response to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s statements.
The Mexican government said it had no indication of extremist Islamic groups in Mexico, and they said the most recent report from the State Department ruled out international terrorist groups from Mexico. The statement also said the Pentagon on Friday said they had no indication of terrorists crossing the border into Mexico.