Texas officials express serious concerns over who’s crossing America’s border with Mexico, especially in light of the war between Hamas and Israel.
“This is absolutely a concern,” Texas Land Commissioner Dawn Buckingham says of the threat of terrorists taking advantage of the lack of security along America’s southern border.
“We are seeing over 200 people on the terrorist most wanted list that we have caught alone this year,” according to Buckingham, adding that “we are exceeding six-year cumulative records for people coming from countries that sponsor terrorism.”
“This has always been our concern from Day One. It is why you need a secure border,” she added.
Buckingham joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss the security concerns at the border after a memo from Customs and Border Protection’s San Diego Field Office warning of members of Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine attempting to cross the border.
The San Diego unit “assesses that individuals inspired by, or reacting to, the current Israel-Hamas conflict may attempt travel to or from the area of hostilities in the Middle East via circuitous transit across the southwest border,” according to the memo, which was first reported Monday by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Foreign fighters motivated by ideology or mercenary soldiers of fortune may attempt to obfuscate travel to or from the U.S. to or from countries in the Middle East through Mexico,” that CBP memo says.
In addition to discussing the threat an open border poses to the nation, Buckingham explains why President Joe Biden is constructing a 17-mile section of border wall in South Texas.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: It is my distinct privilege today to be joined in studio by Texas Land Commissioner Dawn Buckingham.
Commissioner, thank you for being with us today.
Dawn Buckingham: It is my joy and pleasure.
Allen: I want to ask you first to just explain what exactly a land commissioner is and what do they do?
Buckingham: Right. Well, we keep very busy.
When Texas was transitioning from a sovereign nation to a state, we had to figure out who owned what. So our forefathers founded the General Land Office. It actually predates the governor by about eight or nine years.
And we’re the keepers of maps, the guardians of Texas history, and the steward to what today is 13 million acres. That’s going to get really important here in a minute, because those 13 million acres are the majority of minerals in Texas. So we’re responsible for the majority of oil and gas in the state, which, of course, is responsible for almost the majority of oil and gas in the entire country.
We wrote a $2 billion check to public education last year. We do everything along the coast. We do beach renourishment, we do resiliency against hurricanes, we do habitat restoration, oil spill cleanup. We have a whole veterans division, the Veterans Land Board, where we have mortgage rates and low interest rate loans for our veterans. We run veterans nursing homes and cemeteries. And almost most importantly, we also are in charge of the Alamo.
So we do a lot of different and varied things all across the state.
Allen: And in a state like Texas, that is a lot of land to cover, a lot of area to cover.
Buckingham: It is. It is. And in fact, we’re also making Texas bigger right now. So first time in a couple hundred years Texas is getting bigger. We had islands in question in the Rio Grande and we’ve been declaring those.
Of course, the state of Texas’ is American soil, so we’ve been taking away these safe refuges for the cartels that they’ve been stashing weapons and drugs and human smuggling and all those types of things.
So we’re making Texas even bigger and better.
Allen: Now that is fascinating. I was going to ask you about that. There’s been, in recent months, two different islands, correct, that you-all have said, “No, these belong to Texas,” and therefore, Texas law enforcement can patrol them to make sure that the cartels aren’t conducting their activity on these islands.
Buckingham: Exactly right. We’re actually on our third island. The last one was 170 acres. It was literally a stronghold for our cartels. Two of the most violent cartels were battling over it almost every day. Fully automatic weapons, explosive devices are what I can tell you that we have found on the islands. Not to mention a ton of human trafficking and everything else.
But by our treaty with Mexico from the 1800s, anything north of the center of the Rio Grande is of course Texas and the United States. The fact that we hadn’t claimed these islands meant that neither American law enforcement nor Mexican law enforcement could go after the cartels there. So we have taken away their safe haven and we will continue to do so all up and down our border.
Allen: Well, let’s talk about securing our border. And I want to specifically ask you about a memo that was released to staff in the [Customs and Border Protection] San Diego Field Office. They recently warned of Hamas and Hezbollah fighters potentially taking advantage of America’s open border. In this memo, it reads, “San Diego Field Office Intelligence Unit assesses the individuals inspired by or reacting to the current Israel-Hamas conflict may attempt to travel to or from the area of hostilities in the Middle East via circuitous transit across the southwest border.”
Is this a concern to the people of Texas?
Buckingham: This is absolutely a concern. We are seeing over 200 people on the terrorist most wanted list that we have caught alone this year. We are exceeding six-year cumulative records for people coming from countries that sponsor terrorism. This has always been our concern from Day One. It is why you need a secure border.
It just further emphasizes the ineptness of the Biden administration, and the fact that the decisions that the Biden administration is making every day is actually endangering our families, hurting our economy, and making all of our homes less safe.
Allen: When you speak to Texas law enforcement, those who are now patrolling those islands, what are you hearing from them? Are you hearing that foreign nationals are crossing the border? What are they encountering and how do they need support?
Buckingham: Millions of foreign nationals are crossing our border, and the way they do it is they weaponize the family units. So they send the families across first, law enforcement has to of course stop and detain those folks, and that creates a hole and then that’s when they send all the bad guys through.
I’ve heard estimates as much as for every person we catch, we think there’s at least 50 more that come across. And so when you think about that, especially on the bad guy side of things, there is no doubt that people are using our border that is a sieve to their advantage.
You know, you look at what’s happened in Israel, you see the decapitated babies, you hear the terrible stories of the hostages and the murders and the rapes and everything that has happened there and the coordinated attacks, you just have to wonder, if that element isn’t already here, and if it’s not already here, it sure can walk across our border almost anytime it wants. That is really a problem. And [President Joe] Biden should be apologizing to the American people for endangering them and their families.
Allen: Well, the Biden administration is coming under a lot of heat for their handling of the southern border, not just from Republicans, but also from some Democrats as well. We recently saw that the Biden administration announced that they are going to build some border wall, 17 miles, in South Texas, in Starr County.
What do you make of the Biden administration announcing, “Hey, we are finally going to build some border wall,” even though, still, President Biden claims that he thinks walls don’t work?
Buckingham: I consider that laughable hypocrisy for them to stand there and say that our border is secure. And that’s been their stance for a long period of time now, despite the fact that the president and the vice president really don’t come down. I think they’ve been once to El Paso, where they stood on the tarmac and waved goodbye. But it just shows that they realize what a mess this is.
You know, it’s funny, they just auctioned off all the residual materials from the wall, and they auctioned it off through a company in Canada. And when they paid, it’s my understanding that the contractors that the Trump administration had contracted with to build the wall, that those contracts still had to be paid. So the Biden administration has already paid in full, even though they stopped the building of the wall.
So they’ve paid the contractors already. The work’s not going to be done by those contractors. They’ve auctioned off all of the materials. And so all they’re doing is just spending more of our tax dollars in this inflationary period.
Allen: Do you know why that they chose Starr County? Is that a high-crossing area? Do you know anything about why that area was selected for the 17 miles of border wall?
Buckingham: We are seeing a lot of crossings there. Of course, we’re seeing a lot of crossings everywhere. And what we realized about the wall is it doesn’t stop anybody, but it does slow them down and it does divert traffic so that you can create the traffic flow. They’re more likely to be apprehended.
But again, on one hand, they’re saying the border is secure; on the other hand, they’re suspending hundreds of federal laws and rushing to build a border wall.
I thought it was very interesting that President [Donald] Trump the other day said, “Well, I think Biden owes me an apology for all the things he said about the wall.” And he, I believe, promised that he would never build another foot of wall. So there he goes, breaking every promise and being insincere with the people of America.
Allen: How do the people of Texas feel about a border wall? What do they say about it?
Buckingham: We all want complete operational control of the border. We want the boots on the ground. We want the defensive barriers. We want our communities to be safe.
And it’s funny, I was actually just down in Starr County, ironically, and just in talking even to the Democrats, everyone I talked to are just furious about the Biden administration’s policies. They understand that these policies are really hurting our minority families, our families on the economic bubble. The fact that the Biden administration’s trying to shut down oil and gas and continue to do so through endangered species acts and waterways of the U.S. and all these other tricky things that they’re doing, which will further negatively impact our minority communities.
I think the only upside I can see is it is hopefully swinging people to vote for a change at the federal level. Because without a change in the federal policies, there is literally only so much we can do. We are racking our brains, trying to do everything we can. The state is spending billions of dollars a year on our border security, and we still can’t fill that gap, because as long as that open invitation is there from the Biden administration, people are going to stream across.
Allen: Talk a little bit, if you would, about how illegal immigration specifically affects the land in Texas, which you’re in the weeds of all the time. But when it comes to whether it’s the Rio Grande river and environmental concerns, or whether it’s farmers and ranchers and their land, how are those things connected and related to concerns over illegal immigration and physical land?
Buckingham: Well, we can start with agriculture. The General Land Office has hundreds of thousands of acres along the border. We do a lot of agricultural leases. Most of our leases have had to pull all of their livestock off of their land along the border. Their fences are getting cut multiple times a week, so the cows are getting out on the roads, which, of course, incredibly dangerous. The migrants coming across break the water pipes to the troughs and the cows die of dehydration.
And then you can go to the trash. Everywhere I’ve walked down along the border down in South Texas, every square inch is covered with trash. There are backpacks, there’s clothes, or the wristbands that people wear.
When you come across the border, you are owned by a cartel, and people know what cartel you’re owned by by the color of wristband that you wear. And so when they get across, they take those wristbands off, they lose their IDs, they shed their clothes.
The sheer trash and just pollution is terrible. And so it really has a negative impact.
And then you get to other things. Like we have some pretty special rare earth mineral deposits in Texas, and all of a sudden, we’re seeing a whole lot of traffic, almost like they’re scouting all of that out as well. It’s 20 miles north of the border. It’s nowhere that you would go and a way of passing through.
So what we are seeing is actually these migrants are militarized. They’re of military age. We’re seeing a big change in fewer kids, fewer families, much more of military-age adults—of course, coming from over 150 countries, a lot of those that sponsor terrorism. And they’re really scouting out where our resources are as they come across.
Allen: Why do you think they’re doing that?
Buckingham: I think they’re doing it with a plan. Unfortunately, I think we have to be braced for violence on our soil.
Allen: Well, Commissioner Buckingham, thank you for your time. We really appreciate it.
Buckingham: Great being on with you today. Thanks so much for having me.
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