Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday sought to back up President Trump’s unsubstantiated claim this week that “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners” have joined a large migrant caravan moving toward the U.S.-Mexico border.
In a tweet Monday, Trump claimed without evidence that “Middle Easterners are mixed in” the caravan of Central American men, women and children. When asked by a reporter to provide evidence for his claim, Trump told him to “take your camera, go in the middle and search” the caravan.
Asked while sitting for an interview at a Washington Post event Tuesday if he has evidence, Pence said it was “inconceivable” to him that people of Middle Eastern descent have not joined a large migrant caravan moving toward the southern border.
“It’s inconceivable that there are not people of Middle Eastern descent in a crowd of more than 7,000 people advancing toward our border,” Pence said, asserting “there are statistics on this.”
“In the last fiscal year, we apprehended more than 10 terrorists or suspected terrorists per day at our southern border from countries that are referred to in the lexicon as ‘other than Mexico.’ That means from the Middle East region,” Pence said.
According to The Washington Post, Pence seemed to be referencing statistics shared by the Department of Homeland Security on Monday.
The Post notes:
Those statistics, from fiscal 2017, were not specific to the U.S.-Mexico border and offer no proof that anyone in the current caravan is a Middle Easterner or a terrorist.
DHS also told reporters Monday that Customs and Border Patrol agents had in fiscal 2018 “apprehended 17,256 criminals, 1,019 gang members, and 3,028 special interest aliens from countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Somalia.” None of the countries mentioned are in the Middle East.
A Pence spokeswoman made no mention of terrorists being stopped at the U.S. border in a statement issued after his remarks.
“In 2017 alone the U.S. apprehended on average between 10 suspected terrorists a day attempting to enter the country illegally,” she said. “And those are just the ones we catch. It’s inconceivable that this caravan — which is being broadcast around the globe — hasn’t already been infiltrated with ties to extremism.”
.@costareports asks @VP Mike Pence about @realDonaldTrump’s claim that unknown Middle Easterners had infiltrated the migrant caravan heading to the U.S. border. “It’s inconceivable that there are not people of Middle Eastern descent,” Pence said. pic.twitter.com/7CRmyggfHG
— Washington Post Live (@postlive) October 23, 2018
In February, Pence claimed that he had recently learned that U.S. Border Patrol had apprehended about “seven individuals a day who are either known or suspected terrorists.”
“We’ve made progress but we still have work to do,” Pence said on Feb. 17, 2018, in Dallas. According to the White House transcript, Pence went on: “I learned yesterday at the Hidalgo border center that along the southern border of the United States, we actually still apprehend 1,100 individuals a day, who are attempting to enter this country illegally, including seven individuals a day who are either known or suspected terrorists.”
“So men and women, let me say, we’re going to continue to work to secure our borders,” Pence said next. “We’re going to reform a broken immigration system. And make no mistake about it, we’re going to build that wall,” Pence said to applause.
PolitiFact rated Pence’s February claim “Pants on Fire.”
Pence said in Dallas that “along the southern border of the U.S.,” the government apprehends “seven individuals a day who are either known or suspected terrorists.”
We found no facts that back up this border-specific tally. Nationally in 2017, the federal government says, Homeland Security stopped 2,554 individuals on its terrorist watch list from entering the country, which breaks out to seven people a day. Most of those individuals tried to enter by air, the government says.
We rate Pence’s claim Pants on Fire.