Analysis: Are US border security officials ignoring terrorism threat from Canada?

Canada borderSince the election of President Donald Trump, the issue of border security between the United States and Mexico has been a major topic of national debate. But is the incessant focus on America’s southern border by the news media and politicians ignoring security concerns emanating from the country’s northern neighbor, Canada? In a thought-provoking editorial in the English-language Emirati newspaper The National, Stephen Starr employs statistics to argue that the flow of extremism from Canada into the US may represent a greater security concern for Washington than immigration flows from Mexico.

According to US government sources, six foreigners whose names featured on the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) —the central terrorist watchlist maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Terrorist Screening Center— attempted to enter the US from Mexico in the first half of 2018. Starr points out that during that same period no fewer than 41 foreigners who were on the TSDB tried to enter the US from Canada. In the past three and a half years, four Canadian residents have been charged with carrying out or conspiring to carry out terrorist attacks on US soil. They include a Palestinian living in Toronto and a Tunisian living in Montreal, who planned to derail a passenger train making the journey from Ontario to New York. Both were jailed for life. Another resident of Canada, Abdulrahman el-Bahnasawy, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for trying to plant bombs in New York’s Times Square and on a New York subway train. El-Bahnasawy, who was 20 when he was sentenced, was directly guided by Islamic State handlers in the Philippines and Pakistan. Starr notes that nearly 200 Canadian citizens and residents are thought to have traveled abroad to fight for the Islamic State, and that around 60 of those are now back in Canada.

While all this is happening, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, America’s main border control organization, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security, appears to be ignoring the country’s northern border. It is worth noting that the 5,525 mile-long border is the longest in the world, but is monitored by no more than about 2,000 CBP agents. In contrast, over 16,000 CBP agents keep tabs on America’s border with Mexico. Responding to political pressure from the White House, the CBP keeps stationing more agents to the southern border. In the meantime, requests by CBP supervisors along the Canadian border to increase their force by 200 agents remain unfulfilled. This is despite the fact that the number of people detained while trying to enter the US illegally from the Canadian province of Quebec has nearly trebled since 2015, notes Starr.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 22 July 2019 | Permalink

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2 Responses to Analysis: Are US border security officials ignoring terrorism threat from Canada?

  1. Chukotka Peninsula says:

    Canada has even more strict controls than US in many ways.
    My opinion is that there is no reason to make any changes for the worst at this point.
    Border between US and Canada should be open one and there should be no border controls as they are now. Border should remain thought. (This is important)
    I cross the border with Canada frequently and I think that it is a major overkill in many ways.
    After saying all this it is a reasonable to quote Frank Herbert.
    “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

  2. Maddie Guida says:

    With the media attention of ICE activities on Mexican border, and the Wall funding, it almost seems expected that many terrorists would attempt to come from the Canadian border. It does make sense that the attention has been on the southern border for decades due to the substantial amounts of drug trafficking and other crimes. Although the media probably exaggerates activities on the southern border, there definitely needs to be an equal focus on both north and south borders. The fact that 41 foreigners on the TSDB attempted to enter the United States from Canada in comparison to 6 from Mexico in the first half of last year is shocking. Furthermore, the shortage of CBP agents on the Canadian border is frightening. If these extremists are all on the terrorist watchlist, shouldn’t there be the same amount of patrolling for both borders? As far as the media goes, this problem is certainly not covered and should be in order to draw attention from the Department of Homeland Security. Although these attempts to enter are not successful, I think more scrutiny on the Canadian border is necessary to prevent these extremists from attempting to terrorize on US soil, and as the article mentioned, this has already happened. Canadian citizens partnering with ISIS could be a new challenge for the US.

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