Migrant caravan presses north toward US border
The US Department of Homeland Security press secretary tweeted Tuesday afternoon that the DHS "can confirm" the caravan contains gang members and criminals, echoing President Trump's repeated claim that "criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in" the caravan.
Middle Easterners, South Asians, and others are also traveling through Mexico toward the US, tweeted DHS Press Secretary Tyler Q. Houlton. Soon after, DHS spokesperson Katie Waldman clarified that the tweet about non-Central American migrants does refer to the caravan specifically.
Houlton did not offer evidence in his tweets for these claims.
"Stopping the caravan is not just about national security or preventing crime, it is also about national sovereignty and the rule of law. Those who seek to come to America must do so the right and legal way," Houlton added in another tweet.
President Trump was just asked again about his claims that Middle Easterners in the migrant caravan traveling toward the US. (There's no evidence to suggest such a claim is factual.)
"Well, there could very well be, yeah. There could very well be," Trump said.
When asked how he knows for sure, he said: "I have very good information. I have very good information."
He also introduced Vice President Mike Pence to elaborate on the issue. Earlier today, Pence said it's "inconceivable" there are no Middle Easterners in the caravan.
The US Department of Homeland Security announced today that September had seen the highest number on record for family members crossing the southwest border in a single month, and that 2018 was the highest total year on record for family apprehensions.
A senior administration official called the border crossings "a crisis that is unprecedented in our history.” The official said that the "tidal flood of aliens in non-removable categories" was having an "enormous" cost to society, particularly in low income and migrant communities.
The increase of unaccompanied children and families, as opposed to single adults, indicates that “we have a border crisis,” the official said. The large numbers of individuals seeking asylum make it “virtually impossible to deport all those we apprehend.”
The vast majority of family members apprehended come from the northern triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, according to the officials who say 75% of the unaccompanied minors come from Central America.
The announcement comes as thousands of migrants continued to make their way toward the US border.
President Trump made a brief reference Tuesday to the thousands of migrants making their way toward the US border, noting there are "a lot of people coming up."
Trump said he believes the US has the "dumbest immigration laws anywhere in the world."
The President also said Republicans or Democrats "who have common sense and don't listen to their bosses" were needed to help get the laws changed and his border wall built.
He also tied the war on drugs to immigration reform and talked about a dramatic increase in illegal drug sales and interdictions.
As the migrant caravan heads toward the US border, the US Border Patrol released its annual end of fiscal year numbers Tuesday. The numbers show that 16,658 family members were apprehended crossing the southwest border in September.
It is the highest number on record for family members crossing in a single month, according to US Department of Homeland Security.
Here are two other incidents of high apprehensions:
- In 2014, 16,330 apprehensions in June during the unaccompanied minor crisis.
- In December 2017, 16,139 family members were apprehended on the southwest border.
Last week, the Washington Post reported unofficial numbers, which are the same numbers as those released Tuesday.
President Trump encouraged reporters to take their cameras to the caravan after claiming, without evidence, Monday that there are Middle Easterners in the caravan heading towards the US Mexico border.
“Go into the middle of the caravan, take your camera and search. No – take your camera, go into the middle, and search. You’re gonna find MS-13. You’re gonna find Middle Eastern,” he told reporters. “You’re going to find everything. And guess what? We’re not allowing them in our country.”
CNN's Bill Weir has been traveling with the caravan. On Tuesday, Weir was in Huixtla, Mexico, where they stopped to honor a migrant who died after falling off a truck.
"We have been playing 'Spot the Middle Easterner' for a couple of days now and have yet to turn up any," Weir said. "These are folks from mostly Honduras fleeing both political and criminal violence there and now as they gain strength a lot of folks for Guatemala and now in Mexico are seeing this as an opportunity to follow a dream north."
Weir said the caravan is more than 1,100 miles from the US border.
Asked for evidence about President Trump's unproven claim that there are Middle Easterners in the caravan heading towards the US Mexico border, Vice President Pence said this:
"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 did not offer any examples of evidence to support the claim.
"We're going to do everything in our power to prevent this caravan from coming North and violating our border," he said.