President Trump said on Thursday that women are being raped at unprecedented levels due to lax immigration laws, using the assertion as a segue to remind the assembled crowd that he’s been calling Mexicans “rapists” since at least 2015.
“Remember my opening remarks at Trump Tower when I opened?” he said at a roundtable on tax reform in West Virginia on Thursday. “Everybody said, ‘Oh, he's so tough.’ I used the word rape.”
(Trump famously announced his candidacy in June of 2015 with a series of riffs on Mexicans. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you,” he said. "They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”)
Though his speech Thursday was ostensibly focused on tax law, Trump literally and figuratively threw away the script, turning his ire instead to the topic of immigration and border security.
He harkened back to the 2015 rhetoric during his speech on Wednesday, describing events he believes are taking place around a caravan of asylum seekers, mostly from Honduras, who are making their way to the Southern border of the U.S.
“And yesterday it came out, where this journey coming up, women are being raped at levels nobody's ever seen before. They don't want to mention that,” he said.
It’s not even clear who the president believes is doing the raping or to whom — whether he meant people in the caravan are raping women, or that Mexican citizens are raping women in the caravan, or even that people in the caravan would rape women in the U.S. if they crossed the southern border. Still, the main takeaway from his remarks appears to be the White House drawing a direct line from immigrants to an increase in rape, even though there is no evidence that any of that is true.
Adolfo Flores, a BuzzFeed News reporter who originally reported on the group of immigrants and who is currently traveling with them, tweeted that there wasn’t any truth to Trump’s message.
“I’ve been with the caravan for 12 days and haven’t seen or heard of anyone being ‘raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before,’” Flores tweeted.
Immigrants who are also criminals do exist: The Migration Policy Institute has estimated that of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., about 7.5 percent have been convicted of a crime. Less than three percent of those 11 million people have committed felonies.
But Trump’s assertion that immigrants are more likely to commit crimes is patently false. In fact, immigrants are less likely to commit a crime than native citizens are — including undocumented immigrants.
Cover image: WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 05: U.S. President Donald Trump walks across the South Lawn before boarding Marine One and leaving the White House April 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. Trump is traveling to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia where he plans to participate in a roundtable discussion on tax reform. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)