White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders attempted on Sunday to join the ranks of Trump administration officials trotting out bogus statistics in support of President Donald Trump’s border wall demands — but Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace was ready for it.
“We know that roughly– nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally,” Sanders told Wallace in a Sunday interview, echoing a well-rehearsed administration talking point that began with Trump’s (admittedly baseless) dog whistle that “unknown Middle Easterners” were among those traveling as refugees to the southern border.
The claim is wrong in multiple ways: The individuals Sanders is referring to, according to DHS spokespeople, were prevented from entering the United States — many before even obtaining a visa or boarding a plane. A DHS official told TPM in October: “CBP prevented 10 known or suspected terrorists from traveling to or entering the United States every day in fiscal year 2017.”
And while Sanders referred to “known or suspected terrorists” — which the administration hasn’t defined, except to say that they are “individuals that hit against U.S. terror watchlists” — she was responding to a clip of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen using the term “special interest aliens” (SIAs), which refers to a broad group of people specified only by their country of origin, most of whom have no connection to terrorism at all.
A DHS official defined SIAs to TPM in November as those fitting “a combination of factors including suspicious travel from countries with elevated levels of risk due to terrorism activity.”
— Matt Shuham (@mattshuham) January 6, 2019