Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) claimed Tuesday that "at least" 10 Islamic State fighters were apprehended while attempting to enter the U.S. at its southern border.
The San Diego Republican said U.S. Border Patrol "sources" told him that "at least 10 ISIS fighters have been caught coming across the Mexican border in Texas."
"If you really want to protect Americans from ISIS, you secure the southern border -- it’s that simple," he said. "They caught them at the border, therefore we know that ISIS is coming across the border. If they catch five or 10 of them then you know there’s going to be dozens more that did not get caught by the border patrol," he said on Fox News’ "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren."
"ISIS doesn’t have a navy, they don’t have an air force, they don’t have nuclear weapons," he added. "The only way that ISIS is going to harm Americans is by coming through the southern border -- which they already have."
Two of the country's top intelligence officials said last month they had no credible evidence to support the theory that militants are operating next door, nor that they are plotting to sneak across the border.
A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday that Hunter's claim otherwise was "categorically false."
"The suggestion that individuals who have ties to ISIL have been apprehended at the Southwest border is categorically false, and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground," DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron told The Huffington Post. "DHS continues to have no credible intelligence to suggest terrorist organizations are actively plotting to cross the southwest border."
Hunter, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, isn't the first member of Congress to raise the alarm about the prospect of extremists crossing the border. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) suggested last month that such infiltration was possible, and Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) said it was already happening. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has also sounded similar notes about terrorists crossing his state's border from Mexico. GOP Rep. Tom Cotton, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Arkansas, claimed Tuesday that extremists were actively collaborating with Mexican drug cartels to infiltrate the U.S. border and attack Arkansans.
Asked for comment on Wednesday, a spokesman for Hunter said the information came for a "high level source" and that DHS was "actively discouraging any talk of IS on the border."
"The congressman was conveying what he knows -- and what he was told," Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper told The Huffington Post. "And as for DHS’ statement, it makes sense that the left hand of DHS doesn’t know what the right hand is doing -- it’s been that way for a long time and we don’t expect that to change. No surprise there."