Francesca Chambers, Daily Mail, October 24, 2018
President Donald Trump invoked Europe in his latest defense of his hardline immigration tactics that he claimed this week are keeping criminals and Middle Easterners from entering the country illegally as part of a caravan.
‘For those who want and advocate for illegal immigration, just take a good look at what has happened to Europe over the last 5 years. A total mess! They only wish they had that decision to make over again,’ he said.
Trump has long claimed that terrorism on the continent is directly related to the European Union’s free flow of people and and furthered by policies in Germany and other nations where migrants are welcomed with open arms.
‘We are a great Sovereign Nation. We have Strong Borders and will never accept people coming into our Country illegally!’ he declared on Wednesday, refusing to back down.
Trump has made immigration his No. 1 campaign issue and deployed new rhetoric this week that there are ‘tough criminal elements’ in a caravan of Honduran migrants headed to the United States by way of Mexico.
He also claimed there ‘could very well could be’ Middle Easterners mixed in with the masses in a not-so-subtle suggestion that the group seeking refuge in the United States could be a Trojan Horse.
‘There’s no proof of anything, there’s no proof of anything but they very well could be,’ Trump said of his claim that Middle Easterners could have be hiding among the migrants at a bill signing on Tuesday in the Oval Office.
He also called forward Vice President Mike Pence to talk about the caravan of over 7,000 migrants making their way from Central America, through Mexico and to the United States border.
Pence made the unverified allegation the migrants were formed by leftist groups and paid for by the government of Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, saying Honduran President Juan Hernández told him so.
At the president’s direction, I spoke to President Hernández of Honduras. He told me that the caravan that is now making its way through Mexico, headed for the southern border was organized by leftist organizations and financed by Venezuela,’ Pence said.
Trump interrupted him to add the Democrats were also to blame, an allegation he first made at his rally in Houston on Monday night.
‘And the Democrats maybe? And the Democrats,’ Trump said as some of the aides, staff, and lawmakers with him in the Oval Office for the bill signing laughed.
‘Well,’ Pence began but before he could finish a reporter asked Trump what proof he had Democrats were behind the mass migration.
‘You know what?,’ Trump responded, ‘You’re going to find out. And we’re going to see. Maybe they made a bad mistake, too. We’re going to find out about that.’
Trump also argued that based on the size of the crowd of migrants, there was a ‘very good chance’ some Middle Easterner people were in it.
‘I think there’s a very good chance, honestly, that you have people in there. I also think there is a very good chance that over a course of a period of time you have, or they don’t necessarily have to be in that group. But certainly you have people coming up through the southern border, from the Middle East and other places that are not appropriate for our country. And I’m not letting them in. They’re not coming in. All right? They’re not coming in. We’re going to do whatever we have to,’ he said.
Trump was signing America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018.
Lawmakers at the bill signing included Republican Sens. John Boozman and John Barrasso to the president’s right and Democrat Sens. Tom Carper and Ben Cardin to his left.
Further to his right were Republican Reps. Gregg Harper, Jeff Denham, Greg Walden, and on his left were also Rep. Garret Graves, representatives from the Army and the chief of the Army Corps of Engineers.
Trump turned the conversation back over to Pence, who earlier in the day had defended Trump’s claim there are Middle Easterners in the caravan of migrants headed to the United States from Central America, saying it’s ‘inconceivable’ there wouldn’t be.
Pence repeated his inconceivable line in the Oval Office.
‘The United States of America intervenes and prevents ten terrorists or suspected terrorists from coming into our country every day. So it is inconceivable that there would not be individuals from the Middle East as a part of this growing caravan,’ the vice president said.
He made a similar remark at an event held by the Washington Post earlier in the day: ‘It’s inconceivable that there are not people of Middle Eastern descent in a crowd of more than 7,000 people advancing toward our border.’
Pence also cited a number at The Washington Post event that got some attention.
‘There’s statistics on this: in the last fiscal year we apprehended more than 10 terrorists or suspected terrorists per day in our Southern border from countries that are referred to in the lexicon as ‘other than Mexico’ – that means from the Middle East region,’ he added.
Trump on Monday dared a TV reporter to go with his camera crew to southern Mexico, promising that they would find drug cartel gangsters and out-of-place Middle Easterners embedded in a massive column of migrants aiming to cross the border into the U.S.
‘I have reports that they’ve got a lot of everybody in that group. It’s a horrible thing,’ Trump told journalists on the South Lawn of the White House as he left for a Texas campaign rally.
Pence defended the claim, adding unverified allegations the migrants were formed by leftist groups and paid for by the government of Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro.
‘The idea they would not be in this large throng that the president of Honduras told me was organized by leftist groups in Honduras, financed by Venezuela, and sent North to challenge our sovereignty and challenge our border. And now it’s grown,’ Pence said.
‘We’re going to do everything in our power to prevent this caravan from coming north and violating our border,’ he said.
But the statistic the vice president used – claiming 10 suspects terrorists are apprehended per day – has come under doubt, with fact checkers and government reports saying that number applies to incidents at all U.S. points of entry and not just the border with Mexico.
Pence made a similar claim in February about how many suspected terrorists were being nabbed at the U.S.-Mexico border, which he claimed was seven per day.
The fact-checking website Politifact researched his assertion and rated it a ‘Pants on Fire’ – their worst rating.
‘Nationally in 2017, the federal government says, Homeland Security stopped 2,554 individuals on its terrorist watch list from entering the country, which breaks out to seven people a day. Most of those individuals tried to enter by air, the government says,’ the website noted.
In June, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defined the 10 number even further, saying they were people blocked from entering the United States, indicating it included individuals on the no-fly list and not merely those suspected of being a terrorist.
‘The result is that we are identifying and stopping terror suspects who would otherwise have gone undetected. In fact, on average, my Department now blocks 10 known or suspected terrorists a day from traveling to or attempting to enter the United States,’ she said.
In a statement to The Post, Pence spokeswoman Alyssa Farah noted the number the vice president cited applies to all U.S. points of entry.
‘In 2017 alone the U.S. apprehended on average between 10 suspected terrorists a day attempting to enter the country illegally. And those are just the ones that we catch. It’s inconceivable that this caravan – which is being broadcast around the globe – hasn’t already been infiltrated by individuals with ties to extremism,’ she said.
And The Washington Post’s fact checker found that Trump’s own State Department released a report in July 2017 that said there was ‘no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States.’
The 10 terrorists a day stat has been used before by the White House to back up the president’s claim.
On Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked if President Trump had ‘credible evidence’ there were Middle Easterners in the caravan.
She used the 10-terrorists a day number but seemed to apply it to all points of entry in the U.S.
‘Absolutely and we know this is a continual problem. It’s not just in this. We have 10 individuals suspected or known to be terrorists trying to enter our country every day. This is a problem the president has been talking about a long time,’ she said to reporters outside the White House.
The group of migrants, which started in Honduras and has grown on its journey though Central America and into Mexico, is continuing their march with the United Nations estimating there are some 7,200 people in the crowd.
However, they are still at least 1,140 miles from the nearest border crossing at McAllen, Texas, the Associated Press notes, and the length of their journey could more than double if they go to Tijuana-San Diego instead.
A team of AP journalists traveling with the caravan for more than a week has spoken with Hondurans, Guatemalans and Salvadorans, but has not met any Middle Easterners, who Trump suggested were ‘mixed in’ with the Central American migrants, the wire service noted.
However it also pointed out that more and more people join the march by the day.
Most migrants leave Central American counties to flee poverty and persecution.