WASHINGTON -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) on Sunday said that undocumented immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border constitutes a significant terrorist threat. Speaking on CNN's State of the Union, Perry said the United States is at "historic record highs with individuals being apprehended" from countries "that have substantial terrorist ties," such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria.
It's a line that Perry has used before. In June, the fact-checking service Politifact.com deemed the statement "not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim."
Perry rebuffed questions from CNN about whether his tough border stance and his focus on overseas threats was part of a strategy to position him for a second presidential run in 2016. Perry stressed that they were not, but used the question to pivot to the threat of terrorism.
"I'm the governor of the state of Texas," he said. "My citizens' safety is what is foremost here, and it hasn't got anything to do with anything other than those numbers of individuals who are coming across the border. And when you think about the idea that some of them are from countries that have substantial terrorist ties, whether it's Pakistan or Afghanistan or Syria, we are at historic record highs with individuals being apprehended from those countries."
More migrants in fact are arriving in the United States from countries other than Mexico than they have in years past. Still, Politifact determined in June that there is no evidence to support the idea that the U.S. is facing a surge in the number of individuals apprehended from countries considered by the U.S. State Department to be either state sponsors of terrorism or terrorist safe havens.
Rather, the surge in non-Mexican migrants apprehended on the border is being blamed on gang violence and poverty in Central America, which have destabilized El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Since October of last year, an estimated 57,500 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended trying to cross the U.S. border from Mexico.
The humanitarian crisis on the border has put Perry, an ambitious Republican, in a tough spot. As Congress has failed repeatedly to approve federal funds to humanely house and process the thousands of children, Perry has been forced to spend state money to deploy Texas National Guardsmen to deal with the crisis.
In order to justify the spending, Perry's claims by all accounts have exaggerated the dangers undocumented migrants pose to average citizens. In addition to claiming that record-high numbers of migrants were being apprehended from terrorist-friendly countries, Perry has also repeated questionable statistics about murder rates and assaults that he claims were committed by recent immigrants.
Here, too, Politifact.com has found scant evidence to back his claims. When CNN host Candy Crowley pressed Perry on his fuzzy crime statistics Sunday, he backed his figures but backed away from them at the same time.
"I do stand by [these numbers], by the way," he said. "But what are the number of homicides that are acceptable to those individuals? How many sexual assaults do we have to have before the president of the United States and Washington, D.C., acts to keep our citizens safe?"
The comments followed a dramatic week of negotiations on Capitol Hill, during which both the House and Senate failed to pass viable bills to authorize additional funding to address the humanitarian crisis stemming from the huge influx of unaccompanied minors at the border. A Senate bill that would have provided $2.7 billion failed to gain the 60 votes needed to advance on Thursday night. On Friday, the House passed a much smaller bill after the Senate had already left town for August recess. President Obama has already promised a veto of the House bill, rendering it effectively dead on arrival.