FIRST ON FOX: A group of House Republicans is pushing the Biden administration for information about the potential national security threat posed by foreign terrorist organizations, including potential exploitation of the southern border, after Hamas’ attack against Israel.
Nineteen lawmakers, led by Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas, have written to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken requesting an “update with a specific intent to understand what, if any, steps are being taken to address the escalating threats to our national security.”
“While there are reports the Iranian regime might be directly or indirectly involved in the Hamas invasion of Israel, there is no doubt they morally and financially supported the terrorists behind this brutal infiltration,” they say.
Republicans have targeted the unfreezing of $6 billion in Iranian funding last month as a move that could have emboldened the regime. The administration has said the funding is being monitored, has not yet been touched and is for humanitarian purposes only. But critics have said the money is fungible and called for the money to be refrozen.
The lawmakers connect the threat to the ongoing crisis at the southern border, noting a record number of terror watchlist encounters in fiscal year 2023 and recent reporting showing thousands of “special interest aliens” have been encountered since Oct. 21.
“We must take the situation in Israel as a grim reminder of the threats that Americans could face if we don’t remain vigilant and ignore the threats we face at home,” the lawmakers say.
The terror threat is acknowledged by the administration. Its fiscal year 2024 threat assessment warned that terrorists and criminals “may exploit the elevated flow and increasingly complex security environment to enter the United States.”
“Individuals with terrorism connections are interested in using established travel routes and permissive environments to facilitate access to the United States,” the assessment also said.
Last week, DHS told Fox News Digital it does “not have specific and credible intelligence indicating a threat to the United States at this time stemming from the Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.”
The DHS spokesperson added the department is “closely monitoring unfolding events and will continue to engage in information sharing with our intelligence and law enforcement partners at home and abroad.”
“This information sharing helps ensure that we are positioned to help mitigate any risks to national security or public safety,” the spokesperson said. “Our multilayered border security efforts include various screening and vetting processes that work to detect and prevent individuals who pose national security or public safety risks from entering the United States.”
But the Republican lawmakers link the potential threat to what they say is weak foreign policy and response to the border crisis. Republicans have accused the administration of narrowing interior enforcement while expanding catch-and-release in a way that has exacerbated the border crisis. DHS has said Republicans need to provide more funding and pass immigration reform legislation.
“This administration’s already weak foreign policies and inability to sternly address the escalating border crisis have allowed adversarial forces to take advantage of the situation,” the lawmakers say. “The harm from this unsupervised and relentless invasion of our southern border has spread to the deepest parts of our country.”
They are seeking information on how many illegal crossings have been made by “special interest” nations and the Middle East and about those suspected of having links to foreign terror organizations, including how many have been Iranian regime agents.
They also want to know if any part of immigration processing has been outsourced or delegated to another government or organization. The lawmakers also are requesting a briefing on the impact of the administration’s policies, including border policies and foreign policy decisions, the decision to leave weapons in Afghanistan and the unfreezing of Iranian funds.
It comes amid a slew of concerns about the threat posed at the southern border. Sen Josh Hawley, R-Mo., this week expressed concern about the number of foreign nationals from special interest countries coming into the U.S., while other lawmakers and 2024 political candidates have called for a block on refugees from Gaza coming into the U.S.