Fact Check

'Islamic Refugee' with Gas Pipeline Plans Arrested in New Mexico Border County

Rumors swirled that an "Islamic Refugee" was apprehended in Luna County in possession of plans to a gas pipeline.

Published June 16, 2016

An "Islamic refugee" was apprehended in Luna County, New Mexico and found to be in possession of plans to a gas pipeline.

On 15 June 2016, Judicial Watch reported that an "Islamic refugee" was recently arrested in Luna County, New Mexico. The woman was purportedly in possession of plans to interfere with local gas pipelines:

Police in a U.S. town bordering Mexico have apprehended an undocumented, Middle Eastern woman in possession of the region’s gas pipeline plans, law enforcement sources tell Judicial Watch. Authorities describe the woman as an “Islamic refugee” pulled over during a traffic stop by a deputy sheriff in Luna County, New Mexico which shares a 54-mile border with Mexico. County authorities alerted the U.S. Border Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) has been deployed to the area to investigate, sources with firsthand knowledge of the probe confirm.

The gas pipeline plans in the woman’s possession include the Deming region, law enforcement sources say. Deming is a Luna County city situated about 35 miles north of the Mexican border and 60 miles west of Las Cruces. It has a population of about 15,000. Last year one local publication listed Deming No. 1 on a list of the “ten worst places” to live in New Mexico due to high unemployment, poverty, crime and a horrible public education system. The entire region is a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), according to the Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center due to the large amounts of methamphetamines, heroin, cocaine and marijuana smuggled through the state by Mexican traffickers. Specifically, the renowned Juárez and Sinaloa cartels operate in the area, the feds affirm in a report.

The article was published days after the June 2016 mass shooting in Orlando.  The claim spread like wildfire on social media and unreliable blogs, all citing Judicial Watch's unnamed sources in local law enforcement.  The article also didn't say where in the Middle East the "Islamic refugee" came from, how someone can be a refugee but also undocumented, how authorities knew she was "Islamic," or what she was supposedly doing with plans to a gas pipeline. (The article heavily implied, but didn't actually state, that police found any evidence that she was planning to blow up the pipeline.)

Judicial Watch has previously misreported or misrepresented other stories, such as one 2014 claim that ISIS was entering the United States via Mexico, and planning an imminent attack:

Intelligence officials have picked up radio talk and chatter indicating that the terrorist groups are going to "carry out an attack on the border," according to one JW source. "It's coming very soon," according to another high-level source, who clearly identified the groups planning the plots as "ISIS and Al Qaeda." An attack is so imminent that the commanding general at Ft. Bliss, the U.S. Army post in El Paso, is being briefed, JW's sources say. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not respond to multiple inquiries from Judicial Watch, both telephonic and in writing, about this information.

We contacted the Luna County Sheriff's Department to inquire about the rumors, and a representative told us that there was absolutely "no truth" to the story: that no such arrests had been made, no such refugees had been apprehended, no such gas pipeline plans had been uncovered in the course of any criminal apprehensions.

Likewise, the U.S. Border Patrol told us: "We’re just as confused as you are. We heard nothing about it and contacted the Luna County sheriff’s department to see what they said. The story appears to be completely, one hundred percent fabricated and we have no knowledge of anything like that happening."

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.