In a speech Thursday at the Heritage Foundation, Texas Governor Rick Perry delivered remarks about the border crisis. During a question and answer session, Perry was asked whether he believed there was a serious threat that the unsecured border could allow the terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, commonly referred to as ISIS, to enter the United States undetected.
“I think there is a very real possibility they have already used that,” Perry said.
“There is a very obvious and great concern that because of the condition of the border from the standpoint of it not being secure and us not knowing who is penetrating across that individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be, and I think there is a very real possibility they have already used that,” he added.
Another source in Perry’s circle told Breitbart Texas that the concern was the “unknown unknowns“–the phrase made famous by former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumfeld–the fact that due to the hundreds of miles of unsecured areas along the Texas border, it was impossible to know who was crossing and what their purposes may be.
Breitbart Texas reached out to the Governor’s office for clarification, and Felix Browne, Perry’s communications director, replied that while there was not specific evidence of ISIS-affiliated terrorists being caught crossing the border, the federal government’s failure to secure the border was presenting an unacceptable risk of that happening.
“If unaccompanied children from Central American can cross our border so easily, it raises serious questions about the ease with which those bent on harming America could do the same,” wrote Browne in an email, citing the “historic numbers of individuals hailing from countries other than Mexico [who] are crossing our border and entering our homeland.”
Browne added, “A number of these illegal border crossers are from countries with terrorist ties such as Syria. Border security is a federal responsibility that has not received the attention that it deserves from President Obama. Texas DPS and Texas National Guard are committed to disrupting illegal activity along our border to protect the people of Texas and America.”
Hector Garza, a Border Patrol agent and National Border Patrol Union spokesman, similarly told Breitbart Texas that while he is not aware of any ISIS members crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, it could easily happen.
“We don’t have information that terrorists have crossed into our country,” Garza said. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if something like that did happen, being that we have an open border.”
He added, “Recent news reports have stated that ISIS has had some communication with Mexican drug cartels.”
Perry took a bold stance on how to respond to the ISIS threat, expressly advocating for immediate American military action against the terror group. “It is too important to Jordan, it is too important to
Israel, it is too important to the interests of the West in that part of the world to not stop ISIS,” he said. “They are not going to stop in that region of the world. They need to be eliminated, and they need to be eliminated now.”
Perry stated that involving ground troops needed to be part of the possible considerations. “I think all your options have to be open from the standpoint of dealing with this terror and this force in that country. I think signaling to your enemy what you are not going to put on the table is very, very bad. [There have been] both strategic and tactical errors by this administration. We need to have all of our options open.” He remarked that the Obama administration’s recent targeted airstrikes of ISIS fighters was insufficient. “When they talk about limited airstrikes, they place a great emphasis on the word ‘limited,’ yet clearly more airstrikes are necessary,” he said. “The terrorist army must be confronted with overwhelming force.”
Considered to be a contender in the 2016 presidential race, Perry has seen his star rising in recent months after taking an active leadership role in the crisis on Texas’ border with Mexico and his confident and unapologetic fight against indictments entered against him by a Travis County grand jury last week for vetoing funding for the Public Integrity Unit, a division overseen by the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, after the DA, Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested and pled guilty to DWI and was caught on video being belligerent to law enforcement.
Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, was interviewed after Perry’s speech by U.S. News & World Report’s political reporter Dave Catanese regarding how he thought Perry’s foreign policy comments may affect his presidential chances. “As a presidential possibility, it was a very smart speech,” Kristol said. “I was impressed. He gave a pretty elaborate and pretty well-thought-out account, I thought, of the importance of the challenge.” Kristol characterized Perry’s remarks as “forward-leaning,” and “a strong statement of a hawkish position,” in contrast to other Republican candidates who had adopted more cautious, noninterventionist approaches.
To view Perry’s complete remarks and the Heritage Foundation panel discussion, watch the video below:
Kristin Tate contributed to this report.
Sarah Elizabeth Rumpf is a political and communications consultant living in Austin. You can follow her on Twitter at @rumpfshaker.