Ariel Zilber and Leah Simpson, Daily Mail and AFP, October 22, 2018
‘Don’t be a baby, OK?’ Trump snaps at reporter who asked him if he had evidence of his claim that migrant caravan is full of ‘hardened criminals’
Ariel Zilber and Leah Simpson, Daily Mail and Afp, October 22, 2018
President Donald Trump snapped at a New York Times reporter by calling her a ‘baby’ when she challenged his claims about migrants being ‘hardened criminals.’
Trump was fielding questions from the press while hosting a roundtable Friday at Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix.
The president was asked questions about the large caravan of migrants that was heading through Central America on its way to the U.S.-Mexico border.
‘Some of these people are hard criminals,’ Trump said. ‘Hardened criminals — not good people.
‘These are some bad people coming through.’
‘These aren’t babies these aren’t little angels coming into our country.’
At one point during the briefing, Emily Cochrane, a reporter for The New York Times, asked Trump: ‘What evidence do you have that these are hardened criminals that are coming to the United States?’
Trump appeared agitated.
‘Oh please. Please, don’t be a baby, OK,’ the president said. ‘Take a look, just take a look, look at what’s happening, look at the Mexican soldiers that are laying on the ground.
‘Take a look. These are hardened — I didn’t say in all cases but in many cases these are hardened criminals.
‘These are tough, tough people.
‘And I don’t want them in our country and neither does our country want them in our country.’
Earlier this week, Trump tweeted that if the caravan was permitted to get to the U.S., Washington would retaliate by cutting aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
Trump suggested the caravan was politically motivated while speaking at a rally in Elko, Nevada Saturday.
‘The Democrats want caravans, they like the caravans. A lot of people say ‘I wonder who started that caravan?” he said, thanking Mexico for blocking the caravan’s progress.
‘Mexico has been so incredible. Thank you Mexico and the leaders of Mexico, thank you. And you know why, because now Mexico respects the leadership of the United States.’
More than 2,000 Hondurans have vowed to march north towards the United States despite Trump’s warning to Mexican authorities not to allow migrants to cross its border from Guatemala.
The group said Saturday they will aim to get to the city of Tapachula in the morning after crossing the river to get into Mexico while others waited on a bridge in hope they would be able to register as asylum seekers.
‘We don’t yet know if we will make it to the (US) border, but we are going to keep going as far as we can,’ Rodrigo Abeja said.
Tapachula, 25 miles away, is where Mexico’s ambassador to Guatemala Luis Manuel Lopez said women and children would be taken to a shelter after being processed by immigration authorities.
Dozens of mothers and their youngsters ran forward when immigration officers unchained a gate that had been pinning back migrants at the crossing. ‘I’m happy, happy! At last!’ Gina Paola Montes, 21, shouted as she entered the country.
Many had spent the night on the bridge where hundreds slept without shelter.
Others laid in the main square of Guatemalan border town Tecun Uman.
Hundreds of unregistered people resorted to crossing the Suchiate River on makeshift rafts and police did not intervene as they clambered up the muddy riverbank on the Mexican side.
Many of them had spent more than 24 hours on the packed bridge where heat and hunger was adding to a growing sense of despair, reports AFP.
Some travelers, like 22-year-old Alex Benitez, paid locals to take him across the river border by rafts made from huge truck tires.
‘They promised they will give us a visa but the people are there (on the bridge) since yesterday and they have not given us anything,’ Benitez said.
Bryon Rivera, 25, had decided to give up on trying to get into America due to the fear of being deported once he reached Mexico.
‘It is better to go back. It is very hard. There is a lot of disorder,’ said Rivera.
More than 300 people have taken up a government offer of a bus ride home to their country, police said.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto described the situation as ‘unprecedented’.
Meanwhile, Secretary Kirstjen Neilsen said the Department of Homeland Security was supporting the U.S.’ ‘Mexican partners’.
‘I have been in constant contact with my foreign counterparts in Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. Closely monitoring developments and providing any requested assistance,’ she tweeted Saturday.
She later added: ‘DHSgov will continue to support our Mexican partners as they take steps to confront the crisis on their southern border. The Mexican Federal police are handling this in a professional and humane manner.’
Last week, Trump threatened to cut aid to the region, deploy the military and close the US-Mexican border if authorities did not stop them.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and his Guatemalan counterpart Jimmy Morales agreed with Trump at a news conference in Guatemala City.
‘This migration has political motivations which is violating the borders and the good faith of the states and of course putting at risk the most important thing, people,’ said Morales.
Hernandez also deplored ‘the abuse of people’s needs’ for ‘political reasons.’
‘Without a doubt, we have a lot to do so that our people can have opportunities in their communities,’ he said.
The caravan originated in the Honduran town of San Pedro Sula a week ago, with about 2,000 would-be migrants drawn together by social media.
It is notably different from the ‘Migrant Viacrucis’ organized in April every year by NGOs to draw attention to the plight of Central American migrants.
The caravan of mainly Honduran migrants had surged through a series of police lines and barricades up to the final fence on Mexico’s southern border on Friday.
Sections of the crowd hurled rocks and other objects at hundreds of riot police, who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas — stalling the caravan determined to reach the United States.
Several people were injured. Police used tear gas to drive the migrants back and calm was restored.
Organizers of the caravan said a section of the crowd had confronted the police and spoiled what had been an orderly attempt to cross into Mexico.
The migrants are generally fleeing poverty and insecurity in Honduras, where powerful street gangs rule their turf with brutal violence.
With a homicide rate of 43 per 100,000 citizens, Honduras is one of the most violent countries in the world.
[Editor’s Note: The original story contains several photos and a few videos of the forceful crossing of the border into Mexico.]