White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders contended on Fox that many terrorists illegally enter the U.S., but host Chris Wallace was quick to cut in

By Maura Hohman
January 07, 2019 03:20 PM
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When White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders contended during an appearance on Fox News Sunday
that many terrorists illegally enter the U.S., anchor Chris Wallace was quick to cut in with a clarification.

In an interview about the ongoing government shutdown, Sanders, 36, told Wallace, 71, that “nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally, and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border.”

“Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait,” Wallace interrupted.

“I know this statistic,” he told her. “I didn’t know if you were going to use it, so I studied up on this. Do you know where those 4,000 people … where they’re captured? Airports.”

“Not always,” Sanders replied.

“The State Department says there haven’t been any terrorists that they’ve found coming across the border,” Wallace continued. (According to an NBC News report on Monday, federal immigration officials “encountered only six immigrants on the U.S-Mexico border in the first half of fiscal year 2018 whose names were on a federal government list of known or suspected terrorists.”)

Sanders made her assertion to defend the shutdown as a result of President Donald Trump‘s calls for funding for a wall separating the U.S. from Mexico. Sanders said the proposed barrier was only one part of a broader White House push to change the immigration system.

The newly Democratic House of Representatives, empowered by decisive wins in the midterm elections, have dismissed Trump’s demand for a wall.

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Chris Wallace
| Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“It’s by air, it’s by land and it’s by sea. It’s by all of the above,” Sanders told Wallace after he fact-checked her in the interview. “But one thing that you’re forgetting is that the most vulnerable point of entry that we have into this country is our southern border and we have to protect it.”

“But they’re not coming across the southern border, Sarah,” Wallace pressed on. “They’re coming, and they’re being stopped at airports.”

“I’m not disagreeing with you that they’re coming through airports,” she answered. “I’m saying that they come by land, by air and by sea. … The more and more that our border becomes vulnerable, and the less and less that we spend time and money protecting it, the more that we’re going to have an influx not just of terrorists but of human traffickers, drug in-flow and people that are coming here to do American citizens harm.”

Wallace’s point about the frequent use of airports as a point of entry comes amid increased scrutiny of how the shutdown may be affecting airport workers.

Employees of the Transportation Security Administration have been required to keep working without pay, which has resulted in more of them allegedly calling in sick, CNN reported on Friday — noting a lack of agents could result in a lapse of security.

Department of Homeland Security spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton went on to deny the report.

“Security operations at airports have not been impacted by a non-existent sick out,” he tweeted in part on Friday.

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders
| Credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

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According to CNN, there’s been a 200-300 percent increase in agents calling out sick at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, and throughout the first week of January as many as 170 agents called out at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport each day.

TSA went on to issue their own statement, acknowledging that while the amount of call outs “have increased,” the safety of screening processes has not been affected.

“Call outs began over the Holiday period and have increased, but are causing minimal impact given there are 51,739 employees supporting the screening process,” the statement read. “Security effectiveness will not be compromised and performance stands will not change.”

Additionally, TSA reported that so far screening wait times continue to be “well within” their standards.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders Holds Press Briefing
Sarah Huckabee Sanders
| Credit: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary, speaks during a White House press briefing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2017. Sanders said President Donald Trump could benefit from some of the business provisions in the tax bill that could be headed for his signature this week. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Because negotiations over funding the border wall have been fruitless so far, this shutdown could become the longest in American history, surpassing the previous record of 21 days in the ’90s, under President Bill Clinton and a Republican-led Congress, according to CNN.

On Friday, President Trump said the funding freeze could last for months — “even years.”

He tweeted Sunday about a “productive meeting” with Democratic lawmakers in Congress and said that he has shifted his position from a concrete wall to a “steel barrier.”

Democrats, however, said there had been no forward movement in resolving the shutdown, the New York Times reports.

The earliest affected employees would be paid would be around Jan. 25, according to CBS News.

“We had federal employees who were literally taking Christmas presents that were wrapped and ready to give, and taking them back to the store,” Randy Erwin, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, told the network. “They were hunkering down for lean times.”