Afghan & Pakistani asylum seekers cleared of ISIS ties, deported anyway
The six men were detained by Border Patrol after crossing the US-Mexico border in November 2015. They were then investigated by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the FBI. CBP said that record checks on the immigrants "revealed no derogatory information." As news of the arrests spread, politicians and several media outlets claimed the men had ties to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and called for an increase in border militarization.
“News like this is very troubling, especially in light of new threats on the United States from ISIS in a video released in just the last 24 hours,” Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said following the arrests. “I will personally be making the case for enhanced security along our border to build on the efforts already underway.”
Fox News reported that "Islamic State militants could be probing security."
Breitbart News said that “Middle Eastern immigrants are raising fears that terrorist groups ‒ including ISIS and Al Qaeda ‒ could be planting sleeper cells in the US.”
Numerous politicians have referred to the incident as evidence of ‘ISIS on the border.’ Homeland Security officials have denied the claims.
"Now we have ISIS coming over the border,”said Jeff DeWit, Arizona state treasurer and state campaign chairman for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, in February 2016. “You have problems. There's only one candidate that's going to do anything to fix it, and that's Donald Trump."
"It is true, that we know that ISIS is present in Ciudad Juarez or they were within the last few weeks," Congressman Trent Franks (R-Arizona) said in September 2014. "So there’s no question that they have designs on trying to come into Arizona. The comment that I’ve made is that if unaccompanied minors can cross the border then certainly trained terrorists probably can, too. It is something that is real."
"We know that terrorist networks have used our porous Southern border and broken immigration system to enter the United States," Congressman Lou Barletta (R-Pennsylvania) said in September 2014.
The month before, Texas Governor Rick Perry, now Energy Secretary, warned that “individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be” crossing the US-Mexico border.
Even as politicians and the media were speculating about ISIS, the FBI had determined the six men had no ties to extremist groups. The Afghan and Pakistani men said they were fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries, AP reported. The men have cooperated with authorities. Four have been deported by now, while two remain in removal proceedings, according to AP.
The Trump administration is moving forward with plans to expand the US-Mexico border wall. In October, a House panel has approved legislation to provide a total of $15 billion for construction of the wall along the US-Mexico border. US Border Patrol recorded at least 6,915 migrant deaths along the border between 1998 and 2016.