Texas Gov. Rick Perry warned a Washington, D.C. crowd that there’s a “very real possibility” that terrorists from groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria are illegally crossing into the United States from Mexico.
“Certainly there a great concern that the border between the United States and Mexico is un-secure, and we don’t know who’s using that. What I will share with you is that we’ve seen historic high levels of individuals from countries with terrorist ties over the course of the last months,” he said on Wednesday during a speech at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research and advocacy group, when asked if ISIS members had been crossing the southern border.
Perry, a Republican, said that although there’s “no clear evidence” that ISIS terrorists have already snuck into the U.S., there’s “a very real possibility” of it due to what he described as weak border security.
“There’s the obvious great concern that, because of the condition of the border from the standpoint of it not being secure and us not knowing who’s penetrating across, that individuals from ISIS and other terrorist states could be — and I think there’s a very real possibility that they may have already used that,” the governor said. “We have no clear evidence of that. But your common sense tells you, when we’ve seen the number of criminal activities that have occurred — and I’m talking about the assault, the rapes, the murders by individuals that have come into this country illegally over the last five years — the idea that they would not be looking at and managing any of those types of tacts from that region is not a good place to be.”
Perry’s speech, a precursor to a potential 2016 presidential bid, was aimed at laying down his marker on immigration and foreign policy. The Texan took swipe after swipe at President Barack Obama and portrayed himself as the consummate hawk on both fronts.
“Until the border is secure, there will be no conversation in this country about any immigration reform,” Perry said, although he didn’t specify what counts as a secure border. (His critics have noted that there are more Border Patrol agents on the U.S.-Mexico border than ever before.)
On foreign policy he painted Obama as feckless in the face of the threat from ISIS, a radical Islamic group which published video online this week of their members brutally executing U.S. photojournalist James Foley. He called on Obama to use “overwhelming force” against ISIS with air power as well as more special operations, intelligence and advisory forces.
“In Syria as well as Iraq, this terrorist army must be confronted with overwhelming force,” Perry said, saying ISIS should be eliminated “by any means necessary” and warning of the possibility of another terrorist attack in the United States.