President Trump on Monday tweeted a baseless claim that “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” the migrant caravan headed to the United States.
The caravan originated in Honduras but has since grown to include some 7,000 people trying to seek refugee status in the United States. To get to the United States, they have to cross through Guatemala and Mexico.
Trump’s tweet is just the latest in what has become an onslaught of unverified, baseless, or outright false claims being made about the caravan.
BuzzFeed News reviewed the claims and related evidence to help parse whether they are true, false, unverified, or are unfounded speculation.
How to read this post:
UNVERIFIED: Claims that have not been confirmed by an official agency or have no clear evidence backing them up. Treat this kind of information with healthy skepticism and wait to see how it develops.
TRUE: Official sources such as a law enforcement agency or an entity involved in the investigation confirmed this information on the record, and/or there’s extensively documented proof of the claim.
UNFOUNDED SPECULATION: This is a claim that has no sources, no evidence, and is based on conjecture with no original reporting behind it. Treat this kind of claim with extreme skepticism.
FALSE: Official sources such as police or law enforcement or others with direct knowledge have contradicted this information on the record, or it is refuted by unimpeachable evidence.
UNVERIFIED: Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales arrested nearly 100 people linked to terrorist groups.
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales was speaking at a regional security forum in Washington on Oct. 11 when he made the claim that his country “has arrested almost 100 people highly linked to terrorist groups, specifically ISIS. We have not only detained them in our territory; they have also been deported to their countries of origin.”
Morales didn’t elaborate or provide any proof. At no point did he mention the caravan, which at that point hadn’t even reached the Honduras–Guatemala border, according to a report by the Associated Press.
FALSE: The arrests in Guatemala are connected to the caravan.
Morales’ announcement went mostly unnoticed in the English-speaking world until it was surfaced in an article from the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that aims to lower immigration into the US. That piece was careful to note that “Healthy skepticism is warranted here.”
Last Thursday, the story was picked up by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group, which first linked the announcement to the caravan. On Friday, right-wing blog Gateway Pundit published an article with the inflammatory headline “100 ISIS Terrorists Caught in Guatemala as Migrant Caravan of Military-Aged Males Marches to U.S.”
Then, on Monday morning, Fox & Friends cohost Pete Hegseth regurgitated the unfounded claims about ISIS being in the caravan.
FALSE: The southern border is being used by terrorists to enter the country.
The idea that terrorists are using the southern border to enter the US is not new. This myth has been perpetrated by politicians, commentators, and memes for years, but it’s not accurate.
A 2017 Department of State report says, “At year’s end there was no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico, worked with Mexican drug cartels, or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States.”
This follows a 2016 report, which also said there’s no information to suggest that the US–Mexico border was used by terrorists to get into the United States.
That hasn’t stopped the misinformation from being spread, including long before Donald Trump became president. In 2014, two GOP lawmakers said terrorists crossed the southern US border, but the Department of Homeland Security said that was false.
More recently, President Trump baselessly claimed that the caravan is “made up of hardened criminals” during a roundtable discussion last week, and again in a recent tweet. When a reporter asked him for evidence, he told her, “don’t be a baby” and offered no proof.
UNVERIFIED: People from the Middle East are part of the caravan.
Trump’s tweet about the caravan claimed that “unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” with the migrants.
The size of the caravan traveling to reach the US border has ballooned to 7,200 people. Although it began as a group of some 1,200 Hondurans looking to seek refuge, it’s possible there are people from other backgrounds who have joined them. At the same time, however, there is no evidence to support this claim as of now.
A report from Associated Press journalists traveling with the caravan said they haven’t encountered anyone from the Middle East so far.
“A team of AP journalists traveling with the caravan for more than a week has spoken with Hondurans, Guatemalans and Salvadorans, but has not met any Middle Easterners, who Trump suggested were ‘mixed in’ with the Central American migrants,” the report says.
And members of the caravan were extremely confused when BuzzFeed News’ reporter on the ground asked about Trump’s claim.
UNFOUNDED SPECULATION: The caravan is funded with money from George Soros, the Democrats, and/or the United Nations.
Baseless conspiracy theories about the caravan began churning as soon as it entered the news cycle. One conspiracy website claimed that the “UN and Soros are behind migrant caravan invasion” and used remarks Trump made at a rally to bolster the unfounded claims.
One viral post, which spread on Facebook, includes screenshots of people getting into a truck and says, “I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s the one’s [sic] who they’ll be voting for. The democrats and their big billionaire sponsor, George Soros.”
There’s no source for the video and the only copy of it BuzzFeed News was able to track down was hosted by a far-right channel on video streaming site Bitchute. It provides no information on where or when the video was shot. Notably, reporters traveling on the ground show people in the caravan were helped by locals who offered food, money, and rides to ease the journey.
Another video of unknown origin, which was eventually tweeted by Trump, claimed to show people in the caravan receiving money. It was also posted by lawmaker Matt Gaetz, who claimed the footage was from Honduras. After it turned out the video was shot in Guatemala, Gaetz tweeted an update.
Far-right social media users cited the video as proof that the caravan is sponsored by either Hungarian billionaire George Soros or the Democratic Party. However, the video doesn’t clearly show what was given to the migrants and it’s unclear where it came from. When BuzzFeed News reached out to the person who first posted it to Facebook, he did not respond when asked about its source.
As of now, there is no evidence supporting claims that the caravan is engineered by — or receiving funding from — Soros, the UN, or the Democrats.
FALSE: The Mexican police were not “brutalized” by members of the caravan.
Viral posts on Facebook claimed that members of the Mexican police were beaten by members of the caravan, leaving them bloodied. But Sarah Thompson, the woman behind the Facebook group Exploiting the Niche, noted that the main picture being shared was actually taken during clashes with students back in 2012.
FALSE: The caravan is walking directly into a the path of a Category-5 hurricane.
A website called Patriot Express published an article falsely saying the caravan is headed toward the path of Hurricane Willa. The post received over 150,000 engagements on Facebook, according to social tracking app BuzzSumo. However, it’s not true.
Hurricane Willa is coming in from the Pacific coast and heading inland, according to projections that also say it will make landfall on Tuesday.