Democrats and other critics mocked President Donald Trump after he activated U.S. troops in late October to help reinforce the southwest border after concerns that thousands of Central American migrants moving in caravans towards the United States would try to illegally rush across.
They accused Trump of hyping the threat as recently as early November, claiming that the migrants were hundreds of miles away and that only a fraction of the caravan would make it to the border. However, only two weeks later, the first of thousands of migrants arrived at the Mexican border with California.
Mexican officials now say almost 9,000 migrants have arrived. Mexico’s Interior Department said over the weekend about 500 tried to rush the border, with U.S. authorities putting the number at 1,000, according to the Associated Press.
Here’s a look back at some of those critics’ best lines — but worst predictions:
1. Former President Obama: “Refugees 1,000 miles away.”
Former President Barack Obama campaigned in Miami five days before the midterm elections on November 2 where he slammed what he called a “political stunt” after Trump ordered active duty troops to the border.
“They’re telling you the existential threat to America is a bunch of poor refugees 1,000 miles away,” he said. “They’re even taking our brave troops away from their families for a political stunt at the border. And the men and women of our military deserve better than that.”
In fact, the refugees began arriving in Tijuana much earlier than expected after catching bus rides.
2. Rep. Ted Lieu: Caravans “always get disbanded.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) on November 2 on CNN dismissed the idea of the migrant caravan showing up to the U.S. border, also arguing it was about “1,000 miles away” and that if it did show up, it would be a “very small group of people.”
“This caravan is about 1,000 miles away. And there’s been caravans over the years and they always get disbanded. Imagine walking across Mexico. It is incredibly difficult. By the time anyone reaches our borders, if they reach it at all, it is a very small group of people. Most of them are turned away,” he said.
As mentioned above, Mexican officials told the AP there are now almost 9,000 migrants in Baja California, which borders California.
3. Sen. Cory Booker: Trump wants to make the caravan “the issue.”
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) on November 6 on CNN accused Trump of trying to make the caravan “the issue” ahead of the midterm elections and questioned whether Americans really cared about “people in a caravan” who were “700 miles away, 800 miles away”:
The way he’s going about this, Chris, and you know, as if our country isn’t strong enough to deal with a lot of the — 700 miles away, 800 miles away — people in a caravan. If he wants to make that the issue, when people in my state of New Jersey are worried about their health care, people in my state of New Jersey are worried about their retirement security … when I run around this country … as much as the president wants to try to whip up fear and hate, sort of the tired tropes that he’s wielding out there, Americans are concerned about the sort of bread and butter issues.
However, a recent poll out of New Jersey’s Monmouth University showed that the majority of Americans do consider the migrant caravan a threat. The poll, published on November 19, showed that 53 percent of Americans saw the migrant caravan as a threat, compared to 39 percent who did not see the caravan as a threat.
4. Shepard Smith: The migrants “are more than two months away”
Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, not a Democrat politician but a frequent Trump critic, claimed on October 29 that the migrants were “more than two months away” — which would be later than December 29. However, thousands are at the U.S. border less than a month later.
“The migrants, according to Fox News’ reporting, are more than two months away, if any of them actually come here,” he said. “But tomorrow is one week before the midterm election which is what all of this is about. There is no invasion, no one’s coming to get you. There’s nothing at all to worry about.”
5. Sen. Jeff Flake: Caravan “contains far fewer people than it once did.”
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), one of the president’s loudest critics in the Republican Party, downplayed the threat from the caravan on November 2 and called the deployment of the military to the border unnecessary.
“I don’t think that it’s necessary. The caravan contains far fewer people than it once did. I think that we could handle them with Border Patrol and ICE agents and others, civilians, not the military. The military, as I understand it, in my state, would be deployed out of Tucson. That is still more than an hour away from the border. They wouldn’t even be forward deployed on the border itself,” he said on CNN.
Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan told reporters on October 29 that there were two caravans, one containing 3,500 migrants, and another containing 3,000. As mentioned above, the number of migrants trying to cross into California is now almost 9,000.