Rep. Duncan Hunter (R., Calif.) claimed on Tuesday that "at least 10" Islamic State (IS) fighters have been caught crossing the United States’ southern border and that "there are going to be dozens more" who are not caught by American border patrol, a claim the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) flatly rejects.
Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), maintained that his information about IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL, militants crossing the border came directly from border patrol agents on the ground in Texas.
"At least ten ISIS fighters have been caught coming across the border in Texas," Hunter told Fox News host Greta Van Susteren during an interview. "I’ve asked the border patrol."
Authorities at the border snagged these ten militants, according to Hunter, who warned, "we know that ISIS is coming across the border. If they catch five or ten of them, you know that there are going to be dozens more that did not get caught by the border patrol."
DHS, the agency that oversees U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), rejected Hunter’s claim when approached by the Washington Free Beacon for comment.
"The suggestion that individuals who have ties to ISIL have been apprehended at the Southwest border is categorically false, and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground," DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron told the Free Beacon. "DHS continues to have no credible intelligence to suggest terrorist organizations are actively plotting to cross the southwest border."
However, senior DHS officials have acknowledged before Congress that IS militants have actively been discussing plans to infiltrate the U.S. southern border, a threat that many in Congress have warned about.
Hunter, who is not the only member to claim that IS militants are operating in and near the United States, said the most pressing threat is the southern border.
"That's where we are at risk here, is from ISIS and radical Islamists coming across the border," Hunter said. "Once again, they don't have a navy, air force, nuclear weapons. The only way that Americans are going to be harmed by radical Islam—Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin] Dempsey said the same thing. He said that's where the major threat is here, that's how these guys are going to infiltrate through America and harm Americans."
If IS gets its hands on heavy weapons, fighters could try to smuggle arms across the border, Hunter claimed.
Other lawmakers have claimed that American IS fighters have returned from the Middle East and are already back in America, where they could pose a terror threat.
Rep. Tim Bishop (D., N.Y.) claimed in a recent speech that up to 40 American IS fighters are back in the United States and are under surveillance by the FBI.
"It is also believed that some 40 of those who left this country to join up with ISIS have now returned to our country," Bishop said, eliciting shocked responses from some in the crowd.
These 40 individuals, Bishop said, "are under FBI attention and surveillance. So they are known and being tracked by the FBI."
Intelligence officials have disputed this claim, but acknowledged that there is little authorities can do to prevent American passport holders from returning to America, even if they have spent time fighting with IS.