Friday, 18 Jan 2019

The Trump administration's blurry calculation of "criminals" in the caravan

"Think about it, 300 people. You know, we have a lot of heat because, I said, there were bad people in this caravan. Right? So we checked 300 people.

President Trump, remarks at a campaign rally in Huntington, West Virginia, on November 2, 2018

"You know, every time I say," You have rough people inside, "say the media," How dare you. We want to see evidence. Well, they gave you 300 names yesterday. They are tough people, in many cases, and if they are allowed to cross our borders, but bigger and bigger, we will embolden them. "

Asset, remark at a rally in Macon, Georgia.November 4th

President Trump often makes statements and assertions, then his assistants struggle to fill the gaps. During his rallies prior to the mid-term elections, the president almost acknowledged that he had claimed that the "caravan" of migrants from Honduras contained criminal elements with no evidence. But then, the Department of Homeland Security came to the rescue.

"We have a lot of heat because," I said, "there were bad people in this caravan. Right? So we checked, 300 people, "he said at a rally, and at another rally, he said," You were given 300 names yesterday. "

In fact, there were no names. On November 1, a vague press release entitled "Myth vs. Fact: Caravan"

The language of this version is very suspicious. This raises more questions than answers, but DHS offered only "unofficial" responses – which we could not use – that did not really answer our questions. Prior to publication, we received this statement attributed to DHS Press Secretary Tyler Q. Houlton:

"Last year, 17,000 criminal aliens were apprehended while they were trying to illegally enter our country. We maintain our previous release that a large number of people convicted of a criminal offense move with the flow of caravans. In fact, we have identified 200 additional criminals in this group since our previous statement. "

Without explanation, one could simply dismiss this statistic as propaganda. But we are going to dissect the press release and give some explanations for the data it contains.


There are several iterations of the caravan, which moves slowly in Mexico. The highest estimate for the first group was 7,000, but many of them dropped. It's now around 4,000 to 5,000 people, some traveling fast while others going slower.

According to the authorities of Mexico City, of the 4,841 registered migrants accommodated in a sports complex, 1,726 are under the age of 18, including 310 children under the age of five, the Associated Press reported. November 8th. Mexico City is 600 km from the US border. 4,000 additional people in caravans crossing southern Mexico.

Let's look at some of the strange languages ​​in the press release. It refers to "individuals along the caravan route … More than 270 people along the caravan route have a criminal background. … We also continue to see people from more than 20 countries in this stream, from countries such as Somalia, India, Haiti, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. "

Note that DHS does not refer to people in the caravan. These are people "along the caravan route", which stretches for more than 1,000 km. It also refers to individuals "in this stream", which looks like code for people who migrate across the Honduran border.

The reference to "Somalia, India, Haiti, Afghanistan and Bangladesh" is a bit mysterious. The Mexican National Institute of Migration (NMI) publishes online information about the nationalities of people crossing its borders. It is easy to find information on passages to Tapachula, where the caravan arrived from Mexico to Guatemala.

Data show that this year, 28 people from Somalia, 105 people from Haiti, 10 people from Afghanistan, 1,038 people from Bangladesh and 2,940 people from India entered Mexico to Tapachula. .

"This is the entry point to Mexico for people from Africa, Asia and the Middle East who have traveled across Latin America," said Stephanie Leutert, director of the Mexican Security Initiative at the University. from Texas to Austin. "In Tapachula, these migrants can receive the oficio de salida (exit clearance) from the MNI which gives them about two weeks to leave the country. There are also enterprising travel agents (often of national nationality – that is, a South Asian community targeting South Asians) who sell them bus tickets or flights directly to the US-Mexico border. Once they receive the oficio de salidathey must appear in the INM database, which is then ostensibly shared with the US authorities. "

Mr. Leutert, who has traveled extensively along the 700-kilometer border of southern Mexico, said it would be "totally inconceivable" for these nationalities to travel in the caravan because they are entitled to an exit permit. and can legally take a bus to get to the United States. ask for asylum.

So, remove the reference to these nationalities as "in the flow". But the press release also states that "more than 270 people along the caravan route have a criminal record". What could it mean?

In April, the Washington Post announced that the United States had expanded its biometric data entry program for tens of thousands of Central Americans and other migrants arrested in Mexico. The authorities had set up numerous screening terminals in detention centers to collect fingerprints, eye scans and other identity characteristics of migrants. The information collected is then verified against DHS and other US criminal databases.

Since DHS did not want to comment, we can only assume that biometric data is collected if migrants are detained or if they enroll in the new Mexican program "You are at home". The program is supposed to provide shelter, medical care, classes and work permits for caravan members who agree to stay on the spot. About 2,700 migrants are reported to have received temporary visas in Mexico. Of course, they would no longer be part of the caravan.

The press release refers to people with "criminal history". Four examples were given: aggravated aggression with a deadly weapon, armed robbery, sexual assault on a child and aggression of a woman. In the end, the Mexican government announced that it had expelled at least six (or even eight) Hondurans who were part of the caravan, based on Interpol's opinions alleging killings, robberies and other crimes. . All were detected in Chiapas, a neighboring state of southern Guatemala, soon after arriving in Mexico.

Since they've been deported, they are obviously no longer in the caravan. Mexican officials on the road told Washington Post reporters that they had not seen any serious criminals.

So who could be the rest of the people with "criminal history"? We can have a 2014 hike index, which was the subject of a report released by DHS in August. According to this report, 5% of people apprehended at the southern border had a criminal record. (About 50% of the apprehended came from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.)

The report does not detail the crimes. But other data from the EDS show that 32% of undocumented immigrants deported during the 2014 fiscal year as "criminal aliens" were convicted of an offense. immigration-related offenses, such as illegal entry. Sixteen percent were removed for drug offenses, 14% for traffic offenses, 10% for assaults and 1.7% for sexual assaults.

In other words, because biometric data is verified against US criminal databases, a high percentage of people with "criminal history" may simply be guilty of having already attempted to enter the United States. United. Yet the press release highlights a sample of violent crime.

Note that during the 2014 wave, 5% had a criminal history. Five per cent of the 4,000 to 8,000 people represent 200 to 400 people, roughly the number indicated by DHS. It also means that 95% of people traveling in the caravan do not have a criminal record – and yet the president has sent over 5,000 US troops to the border.

The Pinocchio test

Any crowd of 7,000 people will have bad apples. The Mexican authorities have already identified several people and deported them. They no longer represent a potential threat. But it is appalling that the DHS publishes a vague press release to justify the president's claims, and then refuses to explain how the figures were calculated.

The president even falsely claimed to a crowd of supporters that 300 names had been published. As far as we know, Mexican officials have identified only two people.

Although a sample of crimes is identified, these crimes appear to be associated with migrants already deported by Mexico. Since DHS will not list crimes, we suspect that most of these people with "criminal histories" are not really violent. This is consistent with the information provided by Mexican officials monitoring the caravan, although the president described them as "rough people". We also do not know how many people with criminal histories have withdrawn from the caravan and remain in Mexico.

Nevertheless, the figures published by the DHS – 270 to 470 – roughly correspond to the percentage of people with a criminal past – 5% – during the wave of 2014. So it may not be completely irrelevant even if the possible crime is put forward. So we will keep that at Three Pinocchios.

Three Pinocchios

(About our rating scale)

Send us facts to check by filling out this form

Sign up for The Fact Checker weekly newsletter

The fact checker is a verified Signatory to the Code of Principles of the International Fact-Finding Network


%d bloggers like this: