Conway: Declaring a National Emergency at SW Border Would 'Let Congress Off the Hook'

By Susan Jones | January 8, 2019 | 6:04 AM EST

Undocumented Mexican immigrants walk through the Sonoran Desert after illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border border in Arizona. (File Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

( - When President Donald Trump addresses the nation at 9 o'clock tonight (EST), "He's going to lay out the facts and figures of what he considers to be a humanitarian and security crisis at the border," Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway told Fox News Monday night.

Conway told Laura Ingraham that although President Trump is "considering" declaring a national emergency at the border to get his wall built, "he's never committed" to doing that.


"The White House counsel's Office is researching the legal implications of it," Conway said. "But in many ways, it would also let Congress off the hook one more time. And so there are probably some people who want him to declare it so that Congress, again, can fail to do its job.

"The Congress and the courts have failed to do their job," Conway continued. "They've given us this crisis. And when people deny the use of the word 'crisis' at this border, it's very sad to me because what is not a crisis if not an increase in the drugs, in the meth, the fentanyl, the cocaine and the heroin coming over the southern border?

"Ninety-percent of the heroin, the government statistics say, comes over the southern border. DHS says there's about a 73 percent increase in fentanyl coming over the border. Customs and Border Patrol just last year...captured enough fentanyl to have killed every man, woman, and child in this country."

Conway also said people who care so much about immigrant children should agree with President Trump that those children should not undertake the perilous journey to begin with.

How many terrorists try to get in?

On another contentious topic, Conway addressed recent confusion over how many terrorists are apprehended at the border. Some Democrats and liberal media pundits have accused the Trump administration of misleading the public about the extent of the terrorist threat.

On Sunday, Fox News's Chris Wallace pushed back on Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders when she said "nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally, and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border."

Wallace said he'd studied the subject, and those 4,000 known or suspected terrorists were captured at airports, not the Southwest border.

"Not always," Sanders replied.

Wallace quoted the U.S. State Department as saying that no terrorists have been caught coming across the Southwest border. (Customs and Border Protection reported to Congress that six people on the terror watchlist had been apprehended at the Southwest border in the first half of FY 2017. So far, no number has been given for the second half.)

"It's by air, it's by land and it's by sea," Sanders insisted. "It's all of the above. But one thing that you're forgetting is that the most vulnerable point of entry that we have into this country is our southern border, and we have to protect it."

On Monday night, Conway pointed to a report compiled by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, which aims to separate myth from fact:

"In recent days, the terms “Special Interests Aliens” (SIAs) and “Known and Suspected Terrorists” (KSTs) have become more frequently used as part of discussions about the federal budget and border security," the report says. "These terms are not synonymous nor interchangeable, but are two separate terms that are commonly used in the national security community to describe different types of potential threats.

"The facts are clear," the report says.

"There are thousands of individuals on the terrorist watchlist that traveled through our Hemisphere last year alone." The report said the number of terror-watchlisted individuals encountered at the Southern Border has increased over the last two years: "The exact number is sensitive and details about these cases are extremely sensitive. But I am sure all Americans would agree that even one terrorist reaching our borders is one too many.

"Overall, we stop on average 10 individuals on the terrorist watchlist per day from traveling to or entering the United States -- and more than 3,700 in Fiscal Year 2017. Most of these individuals are trying to enter the U.S. by air, but we must also be focused on stopping those who try to get in by land," the report says.

The report said in addition to people on the terrorist watchlist, DHS encountered more than 3,000 “Special Interest Aliens,” or individuals with "suspicious travel patterns who may pose a national security risk -- not to mention the many criminals, smugglers, traffickers, and other threat actors who try to exploit our borders."

The report defines Special Interest Aliens as a "non-U.S. person, who, based on an analysis of travel patterns, potentially poses a national security risk to the United States or its interests." Not all Special Interest Aliens are terrorists, the report notes, but their "travel and behavior...indicates a possible nexus to nefarious activity (including terrorism) and, at a minimum, provides indicators that necessitate heightened screening and further investigation."

The report said contrary to some media stories, "SIAs are not simply people who 'traveled from a country that had terrorism.' The targeting information and analysis done by DHS is more sophisticated and incorporates a number of factors. Often these are individuals who have obtained false documents, or used smugglers to evade security across multiple countries. In addition, some have engaged in criminal activity that could pose a danger to the United States, and some are found to have links to terrorism after additional investigative work and analysis by CBP personnel.”

Known or Suspected Terrorists, on the other hand, are individuals have been arrested, charged, or indicted or convicted of a crime related to terrorism; or who have been identified as a member of a terrorist group by government entities.

The two terms – Special Interest Aliens (SIAs) and Known or Suspected Terrorists (KSTs) -- “are not the same and should not be conflated,” the report said.

“The bottom line is that significant numbers of threat actors have attempted, and continue to attempt, to enter the United States surreptitiously and without authority. DHS and other national security agencies remain concerned about the volume of terrorist-watchlisted individuals, SIAs, convicted criminals, gang members, and others who pose a threat to the homeland, attempting to enter the United States. And we will take all appropriate action to legally block their entry.”

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