- Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday stood by President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claim there are “Middle Easterners” among thousands of Central American migrants headed for the US-Mexico border.
- Pence said it’s “inconceivable” there are not people “of Middle Eastern descent” in the caravan.
- Trump has repeatedly claimed, without providing evidence, that Middle Eastern people are among the thousands of migrants marching toward the US.
Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday stood by President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claim there are “Middle Easterners” among thousands of Central American migrants headed for the US-Mexico border.
“It’s inconceivable that there are not people of Middle Eastern descent in a crowd of more than 7,000 people,” Pence told The Washington Post.
In a statement to Business Insider, Alyssa Farah, press secretary for the vice president, said, “In 2017 alone the US apprehended on average 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.”
Farah added, “This is not complicated: this is an affront to our sovereignty, an exploitation of our laws and generosity, and those who seek to normalize or sugar-coat this tactic do so risking national security and sovereignty.”
On Monday, Trump lamented the Mexican government’s alleged inability to “stop” the caravan.
“Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy. Must change laws!” he tweeted.
In remarks to reporters on Monday, Trump told them if they looked closely at the caravan they’d find evidence to back up his claims.
“You’re gonna find MS-13, you’re gonna find Middle Eastern, you’re going to find everything,” Trump said. “And guess what? We’re not allowing them in our country. We want safety.”
Trump was asked to clarify his tweets on the caravan:
"Go into the middle of the caravan, take your cameras and search. … You're gonna find MS-13, you're gonna find Middle Eastern, you're gonna find everything." pic.twitter.com/WHIbgB21OY
— Dave Brown (@dave_brown24) October 22, 2018
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump’s comments on Monday afternoon, claiming he “absolutely” has credible evidence people from the Middle East are in the caravan.
“We have 10 individuals suspected or known terrorists that try to enter our country every day,” Sanders said.
Department of Homeland Security numbers on US Customs and Border Patrol apprehensions show that “17,256 criminals, 1,019 gang members, and 3,028 special interest aliens from countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Somalia” were apprehended in fiscal year 2017. Those countries are not part of the region commonly referred to as the Middle East.
The statistics also show Customs and Border Patrol “prevented 10 known or suspected terrorists from travelling to or entering the United States every day in fiscal year 2017.”
A senior counterterrorism official told CNN on Monday that there was no evidence that “ISIS or other Sunni terrorist groups are trying to infiltrate the southern US border.”
Several right-leaning media outlets have suggested terror groups could use the cover of the caravan to enter the US, but there’s no substantial evidence to back up those claims.
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