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- A central tenet of Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department, is to destroy Israel.
- Terrorism experts say there is no proof that Hamas militants have been "pouring" across the U.S. southern border, and the Department of Homeland Security said there's no intelligence to back up the claim.
People aren’t crossing the southern border to conduct terrorist attacks or take over parts of the United States, an expert told us. A small percentage may commit crimes, such as selling drugs, but most come for jobs and political freedom.
Former President Donald Trump made the egregious claim that the perpetrators of the violent attacks on Israel are entering the U.S. through the southern border.
"The same people that raided Israel are pouring into our once beautiful USA, through our totally open southern border, at record numbers," Trump said Oct. 9 on Truth Social. "Are they planning an attack within our country? Crooked Joe Biden and his boss Barack Hussein Obama did this to us!"
Trump’s statement leaves the impression that Hamas militants — the terrorist group in Gaza that attacked Israel — are crossing the border in Mexico into the United States.
Trump provided no evidence to back up his claim, and he didn’t elaborate when he made similar remarks in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, and West Palm Beach, Florida. We asked his campaign for evidence and received no reply.
Terrorism experts told us that there is no proof to back up that claim. And a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said there is no intelligence to signal a threat to the U.S. from Hamas.
"There is no credible evidence of Hamas on the southern border of the United States," said Jason M. Blazakis, director of the Middlebury College’s Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism.
Hamas is an Islamic militant group that formed in Gaza in the 1980s. The U.S. State Department designated it as a terrorist group in 1997. Hamas in 2006 won elections in the Palestinian territories and in 2007 took over Gaza. Hamas’ charter calls for the destruction of Israel. Hamas’ attack on multiple sites in Israel in October was the deadliest attack on Israel in decades.
Despite historically high numbers of migrant encounters at the border, it is not "open" for everyone to come in, as Trump claimed. Physical barriers, surveillance technology and about 20,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents help limit who and what enters the country.
"There is no truth" to Trump’s claim about Hamas militants "pouring" across the U.S. southern border, said David Bier, an immigration expert at the libertarian Cato Institute.
Alex Nowrasteh, the Cato Institute’s vice president for economic and social policy studies, studied attacks or planned attacks in the U.S. from 1975 through 2022 by 219 foreign-born terrorists. During the nearly five-decade span, four were from Palestine, and the most recent attempted attack was in 1997. Nowrasteh told PolitiFact that as far as he knew, none of the attackers were part of Hamas. The largest group executing an attack on U.S. soil came from Saudi Arabia — the 9/11 terrorists.
Experts said there is some evidence of Middle East terrorist groups operating in Latin America. But the experts added that they had not seen evidence that Hamas had crossed the U.S. southern border.
Arie Perliger, a security studies professor at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, said that "there was some evidence for coordination or collaboration between Hezbollah and Mexican cartels" in the past decade, but he had never heard of Hamas's involvement. (Hezbollah is a militant group from Lebanon and a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization.)
But experts said that Hamas’ deadly attack on Israel cannot be looked at through the lens of U.S. border security.
"They both involve borders, but the comparison ends there," Bier said. "People aren’t crossing the border to conduct terrorist attacks or take over parts of the United States. A very small percentage may come to commit ordinary crimes, like selling drugs, but overwhelmingly, they are coming for economic opportunity and freedom."
There is not a terrorist movement in Mexico, Central America or South America that targets the U.S. or in any way compares with Hamas targeting Israel, Nowrasteh said.
"It’s just a radically different security environment," Nowrasteh said.
Blazakis, of Middlebury College, said the comparison was a "false analogy."
"The vast majority of people who are at the southern border are trying to escape criminal gangs and drug trafficking organization violence," he said.
The number of times immigration officials have encountered people on the terrorist watchlist at the U.S. southern border has risen in the past two years. U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports this data annually but doesn’t include the nationality of people on the list.
Experts say imprecise and sometimes flawed data make these numbers a bad gauge of the threat of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. For example, many of the people on the list are neither suspected terrorists nor affiliated with foreign terrorist organizations that pose a threat to the U.S., said Nowrasteh.
Instead, people could be on the list because they have some affiliation with members of a terrorist organization, according to CBP. Or they could belong to domestic guerilla groups, sometimes inactive, that are not international terrorist organizations.
Additionally, CBP data can include false positives, or people who were added to the watchlist because they share the same name or birth date as someone listed.
Trump said, "the same people that raided Israel are pouring into our once beautiful USA, through our TOTALLY OPEN SOUTHERN BORDER, at Record Numbers."
The onus is on Trump to prove his claim, and he provided no evidence to support it.
Terrorism experts told us that there is no evidence that Hamas, a terrorist group in Gaza, has militants crossing the Mexico-U.S. border, much less in record numbers. And a DHS spokesperson said there is no credible intelligence to signal a threat to the U.S. from Hamas.
The southern border is not open for everyone to come in. Barriers, detection technology and immigration agents limit who and what can enter the country.
We rate Trump's statement Pants on Fire!
Former President Donald Trump, Truth Social, Oct. 9, 2023
Council on Foreign Relations, What is Hamas? Oct. 9, 2023
National Counterterrorism Center, Terrorism groups, January 2014
Cato Institute, Terrorism and Immigration A Risk Analysis, 1975–2022, Aug. 22, 2023
Congressional Research Service, Israel and Hamas: Major Conflict After Surprise Attacks, Oct. 10, 2023
PolitiFact, Trump misleads in claim about terrorism convictions since 9/11, March 2, 2017
PolitiFact, Donald Trump’s team misleads in tying international terrorism report to immigration, Jan. 22, 2018
PolitiFact, Trump’s travel restrictions survive Supreme Court, fall short of promised Muslim ban, Nov. 14, 2018
Reason, Here's What the Hamas Attack Tells Us About U.S. Immigration Policy: Nothing, Oct. 10, 2023
Email interview, Jason M. Blazakis, professor of practice, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Director - Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism, Oct. 10, 2023
Email interview, Brian Levin, founder, Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, Professor Emeritus Criminal Justice, California State University, San Bernardino, Oct. 10, 2023
Email interview, David Bier, associate director of Immigration Studies at Cato Institute, Oct. 10, 2023
Telephone interview, Alex Nowrasteh, vice president for economic and social policy studies Cato Institute, Oct. 10, 2023
Email interview, Elliott Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, Oct. 11, 2023
Email interview, Natan Sachs, director of the Center for Middle East Policy and a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, Oct. 11, 2023
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