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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Trump’s Border Claims

After a group of migrants tried to breach the U.S. border at Tijuana, with some throwing rocks and border agents responding with tear gas, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said there were no “reported serious injuries on either side of the border.” But President Donald Trump told reporters the same day that “three Border Patrol people yesterday were very badly hurt through getting hit with rocks and stones.”

We asked the White House and the Department of Homeland Security about the president’s claim, but we have not received a response.

The conflict occurred at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, the major border crossing between Tijuana and San Diego. There are more than 5,600 Central American migrants, who had traveled in caravans through Mexico, housed in a Tijuana sports complex, according to the director of Mexico’s Social Development Secretariat, CNN reports. Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum has declared a humanitarian crisis.

On Nov. 25, when planned protests in Mexico reached the border, some migrants attempted to cross into the U.S. at the port of entry and then tried to enter through fencing along the border, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The port of entry was closed temporarily and the incident involved “over 1,000 individuals who sought to enter the U.S. unlawfully in large groups,” McAleenan, the CBP commissioner, said

McAleenan told reporters on Nov. 26 that some of those individuals threw rocks or other projectiles at U.S. border personnel but that no one was seriously hurt. “Four agents were hit with rocks, but were wearing protective gear and did not suffer serious injuries,” he said. A White House blog post repeated McAleenan’s statement.

Video and images showed tear gas being used to disperse the crowds. In a statement posted on Facebook, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said, “I want to thank those officers and agents in San Ysidro who, under tremendous strain, used professionalism and restraint to ensure that no one was injured as they were attacked themselves.”

The president, however, contradicted McAleenan’s and Nielsen’s statements. In answering reporters’ questions after a roundtable event in Mississippi on Nov. 26, Trump said that “we had tremendous violence — three Border Patrol people yesterday were very badly hurt through getting hit with rocks and stones.”

We’ll update this story if we receive any further information about the president’s claim from the administration.

Trump also claimed that there are “over 500 people that are serious criminals and gang members” among the migrants in the caravan. Similarly, Nielsen said in her statement: “[A]t this point we have confirmed that there are over 600 convicted criminals traveling with the caravan flow. This includes individuals known to law enforcement for assault, battery, drug crimes, burglary, rape, child abuse and more.”

But there is no evidence to support either claim.

We asked the White House and DHS for more information on those figures, including how the administration has identified those convicted criminals and whether the crimes were committed in the U.S. or other countries. We have not received a response.

Trump also repeated a claim he has made before, saying, “We’re building big parts of the wall.” He said the breach on Sunday was “in one area where the wall wasn’t quite built yet; it wasn’t completed. But the areas that have been completed have been very, very strong.” As we’ve explained before, Congress has approved funding for some new fencing, but it’s far less than the wall Trump had touted during the presidential campaign.

The $1.6 billion in approved funding in the fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill includes money to replace 14 miles of existing 8- to 10-foot high fencing in San Diego with 18- to 30-foot high bollard-style fences, according to CBP. But that’s not the kind of concrete wall Trump described during the campaign, and the funding is a fraction of the $25 billion the president requested.

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Three border agents in San Diego "were very badly hurt through getting hit with rocks and stones.”
Gulfport, Mississippi
Monday, November 26, 2018