In his opening statement at the Republican presidential debate, frontrunner Donald Trump defended his call for a total ban on Muslim immigration, claiming that “tens of thousands” of ISIS sympathizers are coming across the southern U.S. border with photos of the ISIS flag on their cell phones.
“People are pouring across the southern border,” Trump said. “I will build a wall. It will be a great wall. People will not come in unless they come in legally. Drugs will not come through that wall. … Tens of thousands of people have cell phones with ISIS flags on them… They’re not coming to this country and if I’m president and if Obama has brought some to this country, they are leaving. They’re going. They’re gone.”
Trump is wrong in his assessment that there are people — potentially posing as refugees — coming across the southern U.S. border carrying ISIS flags. He likely got this idea from a news report in the Daily Mail about hundreds of asylum seekers refugees entering Norway with photos of “executions” and “severed heads” on their cell phones.
The publication pointed out that the Police Immigration Service (PU) in Norway also reportedly found pictures of dead children, other victims of war, and numerous images of the ISIS flag and symbols belonging to other terrorist organizations. But Erik Haugland, head of Norway’s asylum programme, explained to the publication that it’s possible that the photos have “innocent explanations,” because people may need photos “to bear witness to the war and horrors they were fleeing in their home country, or they may have been a tactic to sneak through jihadi-controlled areas unharmed.”
On the southern U.S. border, there has been an uptick in the number of unaccompanied Central American children fleeing violence in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, crossing the southern U.S. border since last year. Yet there is no credible evidence to support claims that there are terror plots involving agents of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) penetrating the United States by land through the southern border. Last year when 68,541 unaccompanied minors crossed the southern border, Republican lawmakers attempted to conflate their crossing with terrorism, going so far as to say that ISIS has operations in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez, that “Quran books” were found on the southern border, and that “25 miles of barbed wire fence is the only thing keeping ISIS out of America.”