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Trump says women in migrant caravan 'raped at levels never seen before', despite lack of evidence for claim

President makes unsubstantiated and off-the-cuff comments after dismissing prepared remarks as 'boring'

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Friday 06 April 2018 02:52 BST
Donald Trump throws his prepared speech in the air claiming 'this is boring'

Donald Trump has said women in a “caravan” of migrants travelling through Central America to the US “are [being] raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before”, despite there being almost no evidence on which to base the claim.

The president had ditched his prepared remarks to open a meeting on tax reform in West Virginia to address the immigration issue. “And remember my opening remarks at Trump Tower when I opened. Everybody said, 'Oh, he was so tough.' And I used the word 'rape.' And yesterday it came out where, this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before. They don't want to mention that,” he said.

While the distinct absence of evidence for the suggestion does not rule out the possibility that there are incidents of rape taking place within the caravan, Mr Trump’s claim that there were reports that “came out” “yesterday” does not check out in a survey of media reports.

The caravan of migrants has, as of 5 April, stalled near Mexico City. Organisers have said the number of people in the group made it difficult to continue. However, should they make it to the US after having fled - among other issues, gang violence, rape, poverty, and drug cartels - a long road to achieving asylum awaits them in the US.

"If they’re able to enter and pass that initial test in a quest for asylum, migrants must then attempt to convince US officials they face mortal danger — often because of extortion, attempted recruitment, rape and death threats,” the Centre for Public Integrity reported.

Mr Trump may have been referring to the crimes migrants within the caravan fall victim to by those around them, but not by fellow migrants.

As the Los Angeles Times reported: "Similar caravans have been organised other years around Easter by a group called Pueblos Sin Fronteras, or People Without Borders. The caravans are designed to bring awareness to the conditions that have prompted many people to flee Central America, as well as the dangers migrants face once they're on the road. Robberies, rapes and assaults — perpetrated by smugglers, drug cartel members and Mexican immigration agents — are common. In one incident in 2010, 72 kidnapped migrants were killed by a cartel in northern Mexico".

Donald Trump to deploy National Guard to the Mexican border 'as soon as tonight'

However, Mr Trump is likely mistaken that the migrants themselves are perpetrating such crimes. BuzzFeed News has been following the caravan for two weeks and reported that there were not unheard of levels of rape occurring. Of course, this does not take into account unreported rapes and sexual assaults, news of which would likely not have made it all the way to the White House.

The president made the off-the-cuff comments after dismissing his prepared remarks as "boring", are part of a push for tougher immigration regulations by his administration. “They're not putting their good ones,” Mr Trump said, echoing his old campaign mottos that countries like those in Central America and Africa do not send the best and brightest citizens to the US and further stoking xenophobic rhetoric among some of his supporters.

His comments in West Virginia also highlighted sanctuary cities, which he said are "the worst", adding that "it’s basically a city to protect a lot of people that are bad people. Really bad.” Cities like Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago have vowed to protect the confidential information of undocumented immigrants and not assist federal authorities with rounding them up. Instead, local police focus on combatting criminal and violent activities.

Other matters on immigration the administration has pushed of late include praising construction of the roughly 2,000-mile US-Mexico border wall and ending the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme seemingly over a political fit with Congressional Democrats. The decision to end the programme has left 800,000 people brought to the US illegally when they were minors in a legal limbo. They had been allowed to stay, study, and even work while paying taxes through Daca.

Mr Trump has asked that the National Guard deploy troops to the US-Mexico border in expectation of the caravan's arrival.

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