Lankford Warns of Dangerous Situation At the Border After Eight Individuals Arrested with Ties to ISIS

Lankford: “We are literally living on borrowed time”

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) spoke on the Senate floor about the ongoing, dangerous situation posed by what are known as “Special Interest Aliens” as eight ISIS-K members were picked up by the FBI last night after they crossed the southern border, were vetted, released into the United States, and then later found to have dangerous links to ISIS-K. Lankford has pushed for years to secure the southern border and has sounded the alarm about the threat posed by Special Interest Aliens who are allowed to come into our country when we suspect they may have ties to terrorism.

Lankford serves as lead Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Management, and he pushed back on President Biden for his sudden attempt to change the narrative on the border just six months before an election. Lankford delivered a floor speech when Democrats announced plans to vote on the border package again and to call out President Biden’s refusal to use executive authority to address the national security crisis he created at the US-Mexico border. Lankford directly pressed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Alejandro Mayorkas on the issue of how many Special Interest Aliens are being allowed into our country, in a direct threat to our national security.


If anyone here in the Chamber is watching the news of late, in the last 24-hours the FBI scooped up eight citizens from Tajikistan that were in the United States and arrested them on immigration violations, but they were also suspected terrorists that were in the United States. They were in Philadelphia, they were in Los Angeles, they were in New York City, and they were individuals that had direct connections to terrorism. And they were here because they illegally crossed our southern border and were waved in.

This is an issue I’ve been on this floor, at this desk, speaking about for two years now. The population that’s crossing our southern border has dramatically changed in the last two years. No longer is just about everyone from the Western Hemisphere. Now we have very large numbers of people from places like Tajikistan, from west Africa, from China, from Russia, from Pakistan, from places, other specific places that are known areas of terrorism, and we have people in the thousands that are crossing our borders that we don’t know who they are, from places that we typically don’t have people illegally crossing. This group of individuals are called Special Interest Aliens. That is they’re not on our terror watchlist, but we don’t know why they’re here, how they got here, or the process they had to come to the United States across our southern border illegally. It’s unusual, different, or directed by a crime organization outside of Mexico—Special Interest Aliens.

Last year, we had 70,000 people that fell into the category of Special Interest Aliens. This year so far, we’ve had 53,000 people that were Special Interest Aliens. These eight individuals that were arrested yesterday were part of that group of Special Interest Aliens —illegally present here, not vetted on our southern border, but released on their own recognizance. And now, with an announcement yesterday from the FBI, a connection to terrorism, specifically ISIS terrorism. In the past several months, FBI has also picked up Al-Shabaab terrorists in the United States that crossed on the southern border, that were listed as Special Interest Aliens, now have been picked up. We are literally living on borrowed time. This is the issue I’ve brought up over and over again to this body, to say we need to pay attention to this issue of what’s happening on our southern border.

Now, currently, the Administration has put in place a new Executive Order to try to lower somewhat the number of people that are coming across, but the way they’re doing it is by turning around people from the Western Hemisphere, but folks from other areas, like Tajikistan, those folks are still coming through. Some are being detained, but a large number are actually being released on their own recognizance as Special Interest Aliens. We don’t have information on direct ties to terrorism at the time they’re at the border, so they’re being released.

The bill that I brought to this body would have changed the way we did screening dramatically, would have taken all these issues about terrorism from the end of the process, and moved it to the beginning. So that we’re not releasing people and then trying to figure out if we can chase them. Right now, what’s really happening day to day is that individuals crossing our border, we’re hoping that the FBI can pick up any information on them after they’re already released into the country.

Remember, there were 70,000 individuals like this last year, 53,000 so far this year. And we’re hoping the FBI is able to discern their terror threat before they carry out an act of terrorism. That is exactly the wrong way to did this. We need to enforce our southern border with more than just some action to be able to reduce what’s happening. We should not be living on borrowed time every day, awaiting the next terrorist attack in the United States because our border was open.

What have we done in the past? Last year, we deported four Tajiks, last year, four. Now we’re in the process of deporting another eight. We don’t know what the numbers are here. At the end of the day, that’s a very bad spot for us to be in as a country. I don’t want the United States of America living on borrowed time, awaiting the next terrorist attack because we were not paying attention, and enforcing our own southern border. We need to be able to wake up on this.