Early last week, US authorities disrupted a plot by the “Fort Dix Six,” who allegedly intended to kill US military personnel by launching an attack on the Fort Dix army base located in New Jersey. Three of the suspects in the alleged plot- Dritan “Anthony” Duka, Shain Duka, and Eljvir “Elvis” Duka- have lived in the US illegally for at least 23 years. According to officials, the three brothers had previous encounters with law enforcement, to include several drug-related offenses, as well as numerous traffic citations, such as driving with a suspended license. However, as these individuals operated primarily in areas considered sanctuary communities, federal officials were not alerted to their presence, partially as local authorities did not question their legal status.
The foiled Fort Dix plot has raised numerous questions regarding these self-proclaimed sanctuary cities, as extremists may use such communities to operate under the radar and plot attacks against the US.
US Cities Provide Sanctuary to Illegal Residents
Under the Illegal Immigration Responsibility Act passed in 1996, it is a violation of federal law to prevent the national government from receiving information regarding the legal status of residents. Specifically, it is a crime to restrict any reporting of illegal immigrants to immigration authorities. Despite this legislation, local officials have enacted policies that prevent city police from inquiring about the legal status of individuals during routine activities, like traffic stops, and thereby prevent the reporting of illegal aliens to federal officials. There are numerous cities across the US that have declared themselves sanctuary communities, to include Chicago, Cambridge, Houston, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and San Francisco, preventing security officials from declaring illegal aliens to federal officials.
Debate on the policies in these cities has increased in recent years, as opponents have launched campaigns to repeal sanctuary measures in several communities, stating that the policies interfere with federal law enforcement measures and create environments that encourage criminal behavior. Officials opposed to the policies have indicated that illegal immigrants are involved in a large portion of crimes in these cities, as individuals take advantage of the measures and are thereby more inclined to participate in gangs and other criminal acts.
Private citizens have also begun to bring lawsuits against these sanctuary cities, and in Los Angeles, the watchdog organization Judicial Watch is challenging the city’s sanctuary policies in court. However, there are also several bills under debate in the US Senate and House of Representatives that would repeal current provisions that force local officials to cooperate with federal authorities and would make it easier for other US cities to adopt sanctuary policies.
US Borders Vulnerable to Terrorist Infiltration
It is believed that the three Duka brothers involved in the Fort Dix plot entered the US illegally via the southern border with Mexico. According to officials, there is no record of the brothers entering the country through a regular border crossing, prompting authorities to investigate whether they were smuggled into the country. Since September 11, 2001, concern has increased regarding the use of the US-Mexican border by terrorists seeking to infiltrate the US.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) separates the vast number of illegal Mexican migrants who are often automatically turned away at border crossings, from citizens of other countries who are frequently allowed to enter the country pending immigration hearings. These individuals are identified by DHS as, “other than Mexicans,” or “OTMs.” However, these OTMs often come from “special interest” countries that are classified by the US government as those that harbor or promote terrorists.
According to DHS, since the September 11, 2001, attacks there have been numerous arrests along the US southern border of Special Interest Aliens, from countries such as Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Furthermore, border patrol officials have uncovered items near the border that indicate a potential connection to terrorist groups, such as jackets with patches that read “martyr,” or are Arabic militant badges showing a plane flying into a large tower.
Terrorists seeking to enter the country illegally could seek to establish residence in sanctuary cities around the country and use the policies in these communities to operate unnoticed by federal officials.
In addition to illegal residents from foreign countries, homegrown extremists may also exploit the policies in these cities and use them to their advantage in order to plot attacks and other acts against the US. These individuals pose a significant threat to homeland security, and may impact security concerns for the long-term.