Shortly after 2019 started, President Donald Trump began including claims about human trafficking in his pitch for a border wall with Mexico. Experts have no idea where the president is getting his information.
In at least eight instances, Trump has charged that women and children — bound with their mouths taped — are being smuggled over the border in cars and vans.
Trump’s latest iteration occurred on Monday.
“They target young children — the Internet. And they come in through our southern border into our country. And they’ll have women taped — their mouths with duct tape, with electrical tape,” Trump said at the American Farm Bureau Association. “They tape their face, their hair, their hands behind their back, their legs. They put them in the back seat of cars and vans, and they go — they don’t come in through your port of entry because you’d see them. You couldn’t do that.”
Though some details of the stories vary, such as the color of the tape used or the type of vehicles Trump envisions, experts and advocates for victims of human trafficking are saying the president’s claims are baseless.
“I think his statements are completely divorced from reality,” Ashley Huebner, associate director of legal services at the National Immigrant Justice Center, told The Washington Post. “That’s not a fact pattern that we see.”
Huebner is one of a chorus of seasoned professionals “who have worked on the border or have knowledge of trafficking” that have “echoed Huebner’s characterization of the president’s tape anecdote.”
“I have no idea the roots of it,” said Edna Yang, assistant executive director of Texas-based American Gateways. “I haven’t seen a case like that.”
“Could it happen? Sure, it could,” Yang said, adding that Trump “does not have an understanding of what happens at the border. I think that all President Trump is doing is pushing a wall. A wall is not going to stop individuals fleeing to the United States when home conditions are terrible. He’s just trying different tactics to get what he wants.”
Yang was far from alone in her opinion.
“I’ve never had that,” said Anne Chandler, executive director of the Houston office of the Tahirih Justice Center, a veteran human trafficking expert.
“I’m not really sure where his information is coming from,” said Leah Chavla, a policy adviser with the Women’s Refugee Commission, who has visited the border more than a dozen times in since 2017.
In fact, “often, the migrants are willingly led on foot to illegally cross the border or legally enter with a visa at a port with the promise of a job when they arrive,” WaPo noted.
“We have had individuals lured through recruiters and smugglers, not realizing that the job that waits for them is trafficking,” said Chandler. “On the journey, at the U.S.-Mexico border, they are completely unaware that they’re walking into a trafficking situation.”
The Twitterverse has its theories about where Trump’s stories are coming from, and they are in no way shocking.
"Experts had no idea what he was talking about" is how he will be remembered.
— James Morrison (@JamesPMorrison) January 17, 2019
He’s talking about his own fevered imagination.
— Amy Shaw (@AYS1960) January 17, 2019
Usually when Trump starts telling weirdly specific stories out of nowhere, it turns out to be something Putin told him about.
— Verity Pace 🌐 (@VerityPace) January 17, 2019
Surprise, surprise he's making it up.
— Alex (@ClintBarton321) January 17, 2019
I'm not sure some of this isn't just his own personal fantasies.
— CALL: 202-224-3121 (@sevenbowie) January 17, 2019
That is because he is lying. DUH
— Maria Golden (@msmariagolden) January 17, 2019
it’s the same as Regans welfare queen – painting an image in people’s heads that then trumps the truth (no pun intended). It doesn’t matter if it’s true, he just needs to keep saying it enough so that the facts cease to matter.
— Oceans of Hope (@Freya_Cerridwen) January 17, 2019
Additional experts shared similar skepticism with the Toronto Star.