President Trump incites terrorism fears over refugee ‘caravan’
Counterterrorism officials say there are no signs of ISIS or ‘Sunni terrorist groups’ in the caravan.
US President Donald Trump says “criminals” and “Mideast terrorists” are among thousands of refugees ready to pour into America. He also said MS-13 terrorists were among the caravan.
President Trump lashed out at Central American countries who he said “did nothing” to stop the migrant caravan heading north toward the US, saying it was a betrayal of the money the Treasury has sent them.
“We give them hundreds of millions of dollars, they do nothing for us,” the president said at the White House as he prepared to depart for a campaign trip to Texas.
He was speaking specifically of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, the three countries that account for most of the children and families flowing north in recent years. Mr. Trump said he’s also not thrilled with Mexico’s response.
The US has threatened to arrest around 100 Central American migrants if they try to sneak in from the US-Mexico border where they have gathered, prompting President Donald Trump to order troop reinforcements on the frontier to stop them entering the US. The migrants are making a 2,500-mile journey to America.
After briefly blocking the migrants crossing into Mexico, Mexican federal police officers finally allowed women and children, to cross to Mexico in the border city of Tecun Uman, 257 kilometers south of Guatemala City.
However, counterterrorism officials contradict Trump saying that there are no signs of ISIS or ‘Sunni terrorist groups’ in the caravan.
Bogged down by logistical problems, large numbers of children and older people are getting sick. The caravan was always meant to draw attention to the plight of migrants and was never equipped to march all the way to the US border.
One migrant told CNN news, “We aren’t dangerous…Trump is the anti-Christ.”
The Trump administration is crafting legislation to make it harder for refugees to gain asylum in the US and loosen restrictions on detaining immigrants apprehended near the border, a senior White House official said.
Trump tweeted that “[c]riminals and unknown Middle Easterners” are “mixed” in with the caravan, and, recently doubled down on his claims, telling reporters on the South Lawn of the White House to “go into the middle” of the caravan and “search. You’re gonna find MS-13. You’re gonna find Middle Eastern.”
While the President insinuates terrorists have infiltrated the group, some news crews have observed that the refugees include mostly mothers and their children.
“While we acknowledge there are vulnerabilities at both our northern and southern border, we do not see any evidence that ISIS or other Sunni terrorist groups are trying to infiltrate the southern US border,” a senior counterterrorism official told CNN.
Officials at the Department of Homeland Security have been less direct, but have disproved the President’s point nonetheless.
When asked for evidence for the President’s claim that “[c]riminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” with caravan migrants, a DHS official responded with a hodgepodge of numbers: “In FY 18, CBP apprehended 17,256 criminals, 1,019 gang members, and 3,028 special interest aliens from countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Somalia. Additionally, CBP prevented 10 known or suspected terrorists from traveling to or entering the United States every day in fiscal year 2017.”
None of that, however, proves that criminals or people from the Middle East are in the caravan crowd. And on top of that, the countries the DHS official mentioned are actually South Asian and African, not in the Middle East.
The President’s tweets and comments come just about two weeks ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, where he is emphasizing immigration as a key issue. Trump has, without evidence, accused Democrats of allowing immigrants to overrun the borders.
The President has said, “Democrats want caravans. They like the caravans. A lot of people say, ‘I wonder who started that caravan …’ ” Trump has often returned to immigration as a talking point that will motivate his base voters to go to the polls in the midterms, and his policies on immigration have been cited as one of the key factors that led to his victory in 2016.
Right-wing news outlets had speculated about a terror-connection in the caravan in the days leading up to Trump’s morning tweet.