Homeland Security Backs Trump's Claim Middle Easterners Are Traveling Through Mexico to U.S.

As President Donald Trump appeared to back away from his claim that people of Middle Eastern descent had joined a caravan of Central American asylum seekers making their way toward the U.S.-Mexico border on Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security doubled down, asserting that citizens from the Middle East were"traveling through Mexico toward the U.S."

Homeland Security made the assertion shortly after Trump acknowledged that there was "no proof" that anyone from the Middle East had joined the 7,000-person strong caravan currently making its way through Mexico, after he claimed earlier in the week that "Middle Easterners" were likely to be found among those traveling with the caravan.

"You're going to find MS-13, you're going to find Middle Easterners, you're going to find everything. And guess what? We're not allowing them in our country," the president told ABC's Jonathan Karl on Monday.

Pressed on his comments the next day, Trump admitted that there was "no proof" to support his claims, though he maintained that "there could very well be" people of Middle Eastern descent among those traveling with the caravan.

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Honduran migrants who are part of a caravan heading to the U.S. raise Honduran and Guatemalan national flags in Quezaltepeque, Chiquimula, Guatemala on October 22. Despite President Donald Trump backing off on the claim, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman said that citizens of countries outside Central America had joined the caravan. ORLANDO ESTRADA/AFP/Getty

Not long after the president's admission, Homeland Security spokesperson Tyler Houlton tweeted that there were indeed "citizens of countries outside Central America, including countries in the Middle East…currently traveling through Mexico toward the U.S."

"@DHSgov can confirm that there are individuals within the caravan who are gang members or have significant criminal histories," Houlton wrote, before adding in a second tweet: "Citizens of countries outside Central America, including countries in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia and elsewhere are currently traveling through Mexico toward the U.S."

Houlton said in a third tweet: "Stopping the caravan is not just about national security or preventing crime, it is also about national sovereignty and the rule of law. Those who seek to come to America must do so the right and legal way."

While Houlton appeared to imply that people from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia were traveling with the caravan, which began the arduous journey to the U.S. in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on October 13, he did not explicitly say as much.

Therefore, it is unclear whether the Homeland Security has found evidence that people from countries in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia "and elsewhere" are traveling with the caravan or traveling separately "through Mexico toward the U.S."

Homeland Security has not immediately responded to a request for comment from Newsweek seeking clarification.

Read more: Migrant Caravan Map: Where in Mexico Are They and When Will They Reach U.S. Border?

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Honduran migrants take part in a new caravan heading to the U.S. with Honduran and Guatemalan national flags in Quezaltepeque, Chiquimula, Guatemala on October 22, 2018. ORLANDO ESTRADA/AFP/Getty

The majority of people traveling with the caravan come from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, with many seeking to escape violence and economic and political instability in their home countries.

As the caravan made its way into Mexico, continuing its journey toward the U.S. border earlier this week, Trump vowed to "begin cutting off" or "substantially reducing" U.S. foreign aid to all three Central American countries, arguing that they had not done enough to stop people "from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S."

The president has also railed against the Mexican government over its alleged failure to stop the caravan from making progress in its bid to reach the U.S.

Mexico had maintained that it would allow anyone with appropriate documentation, including a visa, to enter and move freely through the country.

The North American nation said it would also be working with the United Nations' refugee agency (UNHCR), to process anyone wishing to make an asylum request within the country.

On Tuesday, UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards issued a reminder to countries included in the caravan's route, which would presumably include the U.S., that the group "is likely to include people in real danger.

"In any situation like this, it is essential that people have the chance to request asylum and have their international protection needs properly assessed before any decision on return/deportation is made," the UNHCR said.

Homeland Security Backs Trump's Claim Middle Easterners Are Traveling Through Mexico to U.S. | U.S.
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