Commentary

Want to Stop ISIS? Secure the Border

Shawn Moran
By Shawn Moran | October 1, 2014 | 10:54 AM EDT

(Image from ISIS video)

A 25-year-old European male walks north, crossing a painted yellow line just outside an American Port of Entry.  He heads towards the inspections area, careful to avoid the canine teams patrolling the pre-inspection areas.  He picks a lane at random.  He is carrying a larger than average backpack and is sweating, not from the weight, but from the fear that he will be stopped before carrying out his mission.  This man is an ISIS jihadist. His mission is to attack America. His actions unleash a wave of terror, destruction and death, but that is just the beginning.

While first responders and Border Patrol Agents tend to the wounded and close the Port of Entry, other terrorist cells take advantage of tragedy. Several miles to the west of attack, a black Ford Suburban winds its way along deserted road, stopping near the north end of now unguarded border fence. Surveillance tapes will later show a group of six men crossing the primary border fence, scaling the secondary fence, and quickly crossing the border. Overwhelmed, understaffed and responding to a national crisis, no dispatcher or Border Patrol agent spots the illegal entry or the vehicle that drives them away.  The evidence will later show the vehicle turning north, obeying all traffic laws and disappearing into American society. Otherwise occupied, understaffed Border Patrol agents will be unable to respond as more ISIS terrorist cells begin operations on American soil.

Unfortunately, this scenario is a real possibility today, because our borders are vulnerable and unsecured.  But we can’t address the growing crisis through token measures or actions that provide no security. We need real solutions.

The solution is to focus on three simple strategies: (1) enforce our immigration laws; (2) support our Border Patrol Agents with additional training; and (3) give the proper number of hours for agents to effectively patrol and secure the border.

As threats from ISIS increase, the trends on the border are heading in the wrong direction. Even as encounters with illegal aliens increase, there is a decreased presence of agents and a lack of support from Washington for their efforts.

Customs and Border Protection has talked of creating a quasi-military Southern Command.  But creating a new command structure or ramping up the use of military jargon will do nothing to keep our communities safe from criminals and terrorists.

We can’t ignore the terrorist chatter involving the Southwest border. We must prepare to defend ourselves from the obvious terrorist threat rather than wait for proof in the form of dead civilians, Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement officers. Customs and Border Protection has done this nation a disservice by not providing agents with true anti-terrorism training. Open-source lectures and computer-based training will not suffice against an enemy such as ISIS.

Moreover, our nation’s unwillingness to fully enforce our immigration laws only compounds the threat. Those who want to enter illegally know that our policies are full of loopholes and that our borders are porous, despite the best efforts of Border Patrol agents. These inconsistencies only embolden those who want to do our nation harm.

We can change this dangerous trend by strictly enforcing our immigration laws and increasing the presence of Border Patrol agents. We need to stand strong in this time of uncertainty and demonstrate our determination to continue protecting the nation from drug cartels, human smugglers and terrorists.

Finally, before we start talking about restructuring, we must recognize that the current staffing levels on the border leaves our country vulnerable. That’s why the National Border Patrol Council strongly supports legislation that would put more boots on the ground. The Border Patrol Agent Pay Reform Act, a common-sense approach that would put more highly trained agents on the border while saving taxpayers $100 million a year, has earned bipartisan support.

No one seriously expects a single action to solve this crisis on our border with Mexico. It requires a strategy, not a magic bullet. But Congress should dismiss the idea that a new federal bureaucracy is the answer. Instead, the solution requires a concerted, long-term commitment to enforce our laws, increase manpower and provide greater support for the men and women of the Border Patrol who put their lives on the line to protect our nation.

Shawn Moran is the spokesperson and a Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council, the exclusive representative of 17,000 non-supervisory Border Patrol agents.  He has served as a Border Patrol agent for the past 17 years and is assigned to the San Diego Border Patrol Sector.

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