Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) took to Facebook today to dispute reports that Islamic State terrorists are attempting to enter the United States via the Mexican border by demonstrating how this same line of argument has been used for decades.
“Stories like these are good at scaring people and getting attention for those who spread them,” O’Rourke wrote, “but they are terrible for the country’s image of the border, for El Paso’s ability to recruit talent, and for our region’s opportunity to capitalize on the benefits of being the largest bi-national community in the world.”
He pointed out that similar stories were written about Libyan “hit squads” in 1981,Russian spies in 1982, and al Qaeda operatives in the weeks and months after 9/11.
Such scare tactics have a long history — and some of them are even based in fact. In the infamous Zimmerman telegram, the German government tried, unsuccessfully, to convince Mexico to declare war on the United States to prevent America from entering the First World War, or at the very least delay its entry. Mexico also had trade relations with Nazi Germany, but those ended when the United States declared war on the Axis powers, and the Mexican government actively helped American forces ferret out and eliminate Axis spy cells.
That said, there is no reason to believe that the Mexican government would ally itself with the Islamic State, or that it would ignore the active presence of ISIS operatives within its sovereign borders. In fact, O’Rourke contacted both the Mexican government and the Department of Homeland Security to ask them if there was any evidence that ISIS is operating along the border.
“They answered that there was not, nor had there ever been, any terrorist, terrorist plot, or terrorist organization that was able to exploit our border with Mexico,” he wrote.