During a tax law roundtable event in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia on Thursday, President Trump claimed that women marching north through Mexico to the southern U.S. border with a caravan of Honduran immigrants were being raped “at levels that nobody has ever seen before.”
“Remember my opening remarks at Trump Tower when I [kicked off my presidential campaign]? Everybody said, ‘Oh, he was so tough.’ And I used the word ‘rape,'” he said. “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. So we have to change our laws, and the Democrats, what they’re doing, it’s insanity.”
Trump, at a roundtable on tax law, said that "women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before" in a migrant caravan heading to the US.
This is false. pic.twitter.com/G8afXyYwby
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) April 5, 2018
It wasn’t immediately clear to what the president was referring, although as BuzzFeed’s Nidhi Prakash and other reporters present at the event noted, it appeared as though Trump was insinuating one of three things: that the caravan itself was to blame for the alleged rapes, that people within the caravan — many of them immigration activists — were committing the acts themselves, or that Mexican citizens were raping the Honduran immigrants.
As BuzzFeed News reporter Adolfo Flores, who has been embedded with the caravan for nearly two weeks, noted on Thursday, “I’ve been with the caravan for 12 days and haven’t seen or heard of anyone being ‘raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before.'”
The president’s remarks on Thursday echoed his comments from earlier on the campaign trail. As he himself noted, during his campaign announcement in June 2015, Trump referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and drug dealers, drawing sharp criticism from both immigration advocates and the public.
It is true that many Central American immigrants seeking to enter the United States through Mexico face harsh conditions and an ever-present threat of sexual violence. According to many migrant shelter directors who spoke with Fusion in 2014, around 80 percent of women and girls crossing into Mexico are raped on their journey to the U.S. border. An Amnesty International report published in 2010 estimated that number at around 60 percent.
“Many criminal gangs appear to use sexual violence as part of the ‘price’ demanded of migrants,” the report read. “According to some experts, the prevalence of rape is such that people smugglers may require women to have a contraceptive injection prior to the journey as a precaution […].”
However, whether or not those traveling with the immigrant caravan have been subjected to similar treatment is unclear. As BuzzFeed reporter Flores clarified, “To be clear I haven’t heard of anyone being raped in or around the caravan.”
The caravan itself is mostly made up of Honduran immigrants participating in an annual pilgrimage to the southern U.S. border, seeking asylum, in an act of protest. They say they hope to draw attention to the dangers many immigrants face when trekking north through Mexico to get to the United States.
Mexican authorities halted the group on Monday, registering some of the travelers, and assigning more “vulnerable” individuals — pregnant women and those with disabilities — with humanitarian visas. The rest were instructed to leave the country within 10 days.
After learning of the caravan’s existence earlier in the week, the president posted a series of angry tweets, condemning Mexico for not doing more to stop it.
Mexico has the absolute power not to let these large “Caravans” of people enter their country. They must stop them at their Northern Border, which they can do because their border laws work, not allow them to pass through into our country, which has no effective border laws…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2018
“Mexico has the absolute power not to let these large ‘Caravans’ of people enter their country. They must stop them at their Northern Border, which they can do because their border laws work, not allow them to pass through into our country, which has no effective border laws,” he tweeted on Monday.
He later added, “Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW.”