Politics & Government

Marshall says 10 terrorists a day try to cross southern border. That’s not quite right

MSNBC video

Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall took some fire Thursday after a national television appearance where he appears to have given incorrect information about the number of terrorists intercepted at the U.S.-Mexico border.

On the MSNBC program Morning Joe, Marshall, a Republican who represents Kansas’ 1st District, told host Willie Geist that he would support President Trump in shutting down the government unless an upcoming spending bill includes $5 billion toward a wall to deter illegal immigration on the southern border.

“This border is all about national security,” Marshall said. “Every day, over 10 terrorists and 40 criminals try to cross that border.”

Pressed by Geist and MSNBC contributors Mike Barnicle and Eugene Robinson, Marshall attributed the numbers to the Department of Homeland Security. Barnicle then asked Marshall if he had called the department to ask where all those terrorists were being held.

“I’m not saying that they’ve all even made it across the border, but if they’re in (inaudible) they would be in our jails,” Marshall responded.

“OK,” Barnicle replied, clearly not convinced.

The TV appearance drew immediate and mocking comments from Marshall’s detractors on social media.

The Kansas Democratic Party posted the interview video to Facebook, calling Marshall’s statement about 10 terrorists a day a “wild and false claim,” and concluding “Kansans deserve better.”

Moti Rieber, a liberal rabbi from Overland Park, asked on Twitter: “Whose turn is it to change the “Days since Kansas embarrassed itself nationally” clock back to zero?”

Marshall appears to have misstated an actual Homeland Security statistic.

According to a department statement provided to The Eagle, an average of 10 individuals a day are prevented from trying to enter the country because they match up to names on a U.S. terror watch list. The list includes known and suspected terrorists and associates.

That 10 per day average includes all points of entry to the nation, including international airports, seaports and land crossings — not just the southern border.

A spokeswoman for Marshall said he stands by his comments on Morning Joe.

“Dr. Marshall’s gone to the border himself,” Charyssa Parent said. “We’ve been briefed weekly on the issue on the border with DHS.

“We’re going to trust the DHS through and through. They’re the ones at the border, they’re the ones working with Customs, they’re the ones working with the White House and they’re also the ones as a liaison messaging to Congress.”

The claim was similar to one made by Trump on Tuesday when he argued budget and border security policy with congressional Democratic leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Charles Schumer.

“People are pouring into our country, including terrorists,” Trump said in the exchange, which was broadcast live. “We have terrorists. We caught 10 terrorists over the last very short period of time. Ten. These are very serious people. Our border agents, all of our law enforcement has been incredible what they’ve done. ... We need the wall.”

Another similar comment came from Republican Rep. Steve Scalise of Lousiana, who told Fox News host Mark Levin on Sunday night that there are 600 convicted criminals in a migrant caravan camped out at the southern border seeking entry as potential refugees from violence in Honduras.

“Every single day, this doesn’t get mainstream media coverage and it should, every single day in this country at least 10 known terrorists are captured trying to cross into America through our border,” Scalise said.

Congress and the president have until Dec. 21 to pass a budget or many government agencies will be shuttered due to lack of spending authority.

Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.