National Security

CNN Reporter Blind to Middle Easterners in Migrant Flow

Network suggests Trump is lying based on one journalist's observation of caravan, which is thousands strong

Image Credit: ORLANDO SIERRA./AFP/Getty Images & Shutterstock

CNN on Monday made a sweeping judgment about President Donald Trump’s claim that Middle Easterners are among the thousands of Central Americans making their way toward the United States based on the anecdotal observations of one reporter.

Trump tweeted his concerns Monday morning, which prompted anchor Wolf Blitzer to check in with Patrick Oppmann, the network’s correspondent embedded with the caravan.

“I have yet to see anybody who is not a Central American,” he said. “Certainly, I’ve not seen anyone who is a Middle Easterner or appears to be going to the United States to cause trouble. To a person, they all say they’re going because they want to have better economic opportunity.”

Oppmann reported that the caravan had begun moving north again after spending the night in the town of Tapachula, which is on the Mexican side of the border with Guatemala. But he said he had not talked to Middle Easterners.

“Well, just take a look over here, Wolf. I’ve been talking to people now for three days. I’ve been walking with them, traveling with them, seeing where they’re sleeping at night. And the vast majority are Honduran migrants,” he said.

“I’ve not seen someone who’s not Central American. I’ve not seen anybody who has said that they just want to do anything but go and either reunite with family members — because a lot of these people have been deported previously from the United States.”

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Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), ridiculed the idea that CNN would discredit Trump’s statement based on the observations of one person traveling with a group that numbers anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 people, according to estimates.

“That would be the most simplistic kind of profiling of someone’s ethnicity,” she told LifeZette. “Of course, if there were Middle Easterners trying to come in with the caravan, they’re going to try to blend in.”

CNN’s S.E. Cupp dismissed Trump’s tweet as “not even a dog whistle. This is fearmongering at its most naked.”

CNN contributor Errol Louis said on the broadcast that Trump wants to “disconnect people from their own logic” because there are easier ways for Middle Easterners to come into the United States.

No one in the CNN segment mentioned that there is a basis for concern that non-Central Americans might try to enter America through the U.S.-Mexican border.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales told the Conference for Prosperity and Security in Central America earlier this month that officials in his country have arrested nearly 100 people associated with the Islamic State (ISIS) and other terrorist organizations.

Vaughan’s CIS highlighted a 2016 report in La Prensa, a Spanish-language Honduran newspaper, that hundreds of Palestinians, Syrians, and other Arabs had fraudulently registered as citizens of Honduras.

The think tank cited Honduras’ National Registry of Persons data confirming that Arabs by the hundreds have used fraud to gain citizenship there. La Prensa reported that the foreigners have purchased Honduran identity documents.

The paper focused on the case of Kareen Samer Abdulhadi, a Palestinian who presented himself to the Honduran consulate in Barcelona in October 2014. Abdulhadi used documentation to request a passport, describing his status as “Honduran by birth.”

Related: Nearly 100 ISIS Terrorist Arrests Prompt Worries About Caravan

Diplomats discovered in 2013 that someone had hacked into the database of municipal birth registrations in Honduras, which apparently allowed Abdulhadi to be documented as a Honduran, according to the CIS report.

Vaughan said those reports dovetail with the actions of transnational criminal organizations that smuggle “high-value” illegal immigrants who have criminal records or connections with terrorism.

“We know that there are smugglers who specialize in people from countries of concern,” she said.

“One thing we know for sure is, there is an ongoing problem of smuggling people from all over the world, including countries associated with terrorism.”

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