Claims have swirled ever since news broke that a caravan of migrants was making its way up from Honduras through Central America. Two such claims are President Trump saying “Middle Easterners” had joined the caravan and that travelers were defacing and burning American flags.
Are these claims real?
One claim happened on Monday, when President Donald Trump said to reporters before departing from the White House that if you went into the migrant caravan, “you’re gonna find MS-13, you’re gonna find Middle Eastern, you’re going to find everything.”
#MAGA #HoustonRally #TX
|@bennyjohnson #TRUMP "Go into the middle of the #caravan, take your cameras and search. You're going to find #MS13 .. #MiddleEastern … everything. .. We are not allowing them in our country. We wants safety." pic.twitter.com/aU9xhSEA55 | #ISIS #Guatemala
— ????? ?????? (@trump020) October 22, 2018
He later tweeted that the caravan contained “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners” and that he had “alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy.”
Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States. Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy. Must change laws!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2018
The second claim came from conservative outlet Breitbart, claiming that an Associated Press image showed “Caravan Protesters” burning an American flag that was spray painted with a swastika.
It was then spread on social media, with this post attributing the picture to “people from the migrant caravan”:
Another viral social media post bolstered this claim, providing multiple images of flags being burned by the caravan.
Let’s break these claims down one at a time.
Are “unknown Middle Easterners” using the caravan to sneak into the United States?
When President Trump made these claims, he and his office did not provide any evidence to back up the claim that middle eastern immigrants were among the migrant caravan.
The New York Times noted that on the day of him making this claim to reporters and on Twitter, a commentator said on “Fox & Friends” that the “open-border policies” could allow for terrorist groups to get into America.
“They are a threat to our national security because today, war — it’s not only countries that go to war, it is groups such as ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban, and they have declared war openly against the United States,” a commentator said. “So, with the open-borders policies we have had, how many of them are in America?”
30 minutes later, Trump began tweeting that he would close those borders down and bring in the military.
When asked if they had evidence of MS13 members of people of Middle Eastern descent, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said they “absolutely” have corroborating proof of this “continuing problem,” but none has been released to the public.
Christopher Sherman from the Associated Press reported that journalists who have been following the caravan “have seen nothing that verifies [the president’s] claim,” saying that it is mostly Hondurans, El Salvadorians and Guatemalans fleeing poverty and gang violence.
Are members of the caravan spray painting American flags with swastikas and burning them?
The Breitbart article was originally reported with the headline “PHOTO: Caravan Protesters Paint Swastika on American Flag, Burn It in the Street.”
While the image is real, taken by the Associated Press’ Fernando Antonio, the official caption of the image says that it was taken on October 19th in front of the American Embassy in Honduras’ capital city, Tegucigalpa, according to Snopes. The caption reads that two people burned the flag to “protest in favor of the caravan of migrants that is currently stuck on the Guatemala-Mexico border.” That means that these two cannot be a part of the caravan, as they are hundreds of miles away.
Breitbart’s headline has since been changed to “PHOTO: Protesters in Support of Caravan Paint Swastika on American Flag, Burn It in the Street.”
But what about all the other flag burnings? Are those real?
All three of the images come from different sources.
The top image actually does not depict an American flag at all. In a video by KSAZ-TV, the video depicts a different angle of a Trump banner getting burned in protest in May of 2016.
The bottom-left image is not only not from the Caravan, but it’s also not even from America. According to Getty Images, where the image is available for download, the flag was burned in protest in London, England to protest Pastor Terry Jones announcing he would be holding a “Burn a Koran” Day on the anniversary of 9/11.
Finally, the bottom-right image is available for download on Reuters and was taken in July of 2016 outside of the arena hosting the Republican National Convention.
Fact or Fiction
In regards to people of Middle Eastern descent as part of the caravan, we rule fiction. With the AP reporting to not have encountered any Middle Eastern travelers, no proof being presented by the Trump administration, and the fact that the caravan started in Honduras, there’s not enough concrete evidence to corroborate the story to be even inconclusive.
The flag burning claims are fiction across the board, as all of the flag burnings have occurred hundreds of miles away from the caravan and some even from several years prior and are unrelated to the caravan.
The caravan was last reported to be near the Souther Mexican town of Mapasterpec.