President Donald Trump dared a TV reporter on Monday to go with his camera crew from the White House to southern Mexico, promising that they would find drug cartel gangsters and out-of-place Middle Easterners embedded in a massive column of migrants who aim to cross into the United States.
‘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.
He insisted during one exchange that a mid-morning tweet about ‘[c]riminals and unknown Middle Easterners’ would be proven true – that they’re really there – if reporters would only look in the right places.
‘You know what you should do?’ Trump asked. ‘Go into the middle of the caravan. Take your cameras and search, okay?’
‘Go into the middle and search,’ the president said. ‘You’re going to find MS-13. You’re going to find Middle Eastern[ers]. You’re going to find everything. And guess what? We’re not allowing them in our country. We want safety. We want safety.’
Democrats and Republicans have fought for days about how to describe the latest sea of humanity known as a migration ‘caravan.’
To the political left, they’re asylum seekers fleeing poverty and civil wars driven by narco-trafficking. On the right they’re seen as opportunists, urged by Trump’s political adversaries to be as visible as possible in the days leading up to a congressional election and nudge Democrats to the polls.
Trump has largely blamed the governments of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, warning that he’ll turn off the foreign-aid spigot as punishment for threatening U.S. border security.
‘Every year we give them foreign aid, and they did nothing for us. … Hundreds of millions of dollars. They, like a lot of others, do nothing for our country,’ he fumed Monday.
Observers on the ground have said the migrant exodus is largely controlled by drug cartels and human traffickers, not government agencies.
The president claimed that the caravan had grown to become ‘a lot bigger than 5,000 people,’ citing the most common figure in news reports, ‘and we’ve got to stop them at the border.’
He complained earlier on Twitter that Mexico has been unable to stop the migrants who have captured humanitarian interest while they’ve piqued his outrage.
‘Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States. Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emerg[enc]y. Must change laws!’ he tweeted.
The president also returned to his political messaging just 15 days before the midterm congressional election, saying voters who fear the impact of a mass influx of illegal immigrants should elect more Republicans.
‘Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think
of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws! Remember the Midterms! So unfair to those who come in legally,’ he said.
The Department of Homeland Security is warning that Mexico’s cartels will try to ‘prey on the vulnerabilities’ of migrants in the caravan, now 7,000 strong.