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A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson tweeted on Tuesday that the caravan of Central American migrants making their way to the U.S. included criminals and “gang members.” Commenters blasted the spokesperson for broadcasting the statement without evidence.
DHS Press Secretary Tyler Q. Houlton said in a tweet that the agency “can confirm that there are individuals within the caravan who are gang members or have significant criminal histories.”
“Citizens of countries outside Central America, including countries in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and elsewhere are currently traveling through Mexico toward the U.S.,” Houlton said in another tweet.
Citizens of countries outside Central America, including countries in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and elsewhere are currently traveling through Mexico toward the U.S.— Tyler Q. Houlton (@SpoxDHS) October 23, 2018
CNN reports that another DHS spokesperson, Katie Waldman, “clarified that the tweet about non-Central American migrants does refer to the caravan specifically.”
Houlton’s statement doubles down on remarks made by President Donald Trump, who on Monday tweeted that “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” with the group of immigrants. Politifact reports that between 5,000 and 7,000 people, mostly from Guatemala and Honduras, are believed to be traveling with the caravan. Many are reportedly seeking asylum in the U.S.
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 Emergy. Must change laws!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2018
An ABC News crew traveling with the caravan reports that it has “seen no evidence to support the president’s claim.”
Houlton’s tweets were met with derision. People, including members of the media, lambasted the spokesperson for making the claim about people traveling with the caravan without evidence.
Cool so now that you've identified them you can can turn those maybe two people away and let the rest in, good work job well done https://t.co/Ovme61myHw— larry birdman (@LoneXI) October 24, 2018
So? Here's a thought: When they get to the border and ask for asylum, do your job and vet them instead of acting all hysterical because they're headed this way. Also, everyone can confirm there are gang members with criminal histories of all races from here. https://t.co/Bq3Vhw92Fy— Marod (@calbear3) October 23, 2018
Proof? It's such a simple question: how does DHS know this to be true? https://t.co/URc4TEOg5Y— Paul Conner (@paconner) October 23, 2018
Seems like we have a headstart on the investigations to be conducted when these folks legally request asylum. https://t.co/rcztBGfONF— matt miller (@Hillbilly_Matt) October 24, 2018
Which means you'll be turning them away at the Border, right? So what's the problem? 🤔 https://t.co/VsNAuExaN3— John KILLMONGER!!! (@darkwriter) October 23, 2018
According to CNN, more than 2,700 of the migrants traveling with the caravan have filed for asylum in Mexico. The rest are expected to continue to travel north.
Trump on Tuesday was reportedly weighing the option of sending military presence aside from the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We’re not going to allow these people to come into our country,” Trump said, according to CNN. “You have to come in legally and you have to come in through merit.”
Kris Seavers is the IRL editor for the Daily Dot. Her work has appeared in Central Texas publications, including Austin Monthly and San Antonio Magazine, and on NPR.