A guest on Fox News claimed without evidence that migrants traveling in a caravan up through Mexico were crying diseases such as leprosy, smallpox and tuberculosis and that they were going to “infect our people in the United States.”
Former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent David Ward appeared on the cable network with host Charles Payne to discuss the caravan which has been a frequent target of attacks by President Donald Trump and Republicans. Payne was speaking after the U.S. military announced it was sending over 5,000 troops to the southern border with Mexico ahead of the caravan’s arrival. In addition, Newsweek reported that an additional 7,000 troops would be kept on round-the-clock standby.
“The military is going to be a tremendous asset at the ports of entry to prevent the people from coming across the ports of entry,” Ward began. “However, what we need to look at is what happens between the ports of entry and what the border patrol is going to have to face. We have three tenants of problems here, we have national security, public safety and public health issues with these caravans coming to the United States.”
Later, Ward went on to describe what he claimed were the health risks attached to the caravan.
“Then public health, we have these individuals coming from all over the world that have some of the most extreme medical care in the world,” Ward said. “And they’re coming in with diseases such as smallpox and leprosy and TB that are going to infect our people in the United States.”
There have been almost zero cases of leprosy in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the three countries where the majority of the migrants originate from, in recent years, according to the World Health Organization. There is no evidence of any smallpox cases anywhere in the world. There are cases of tuberculosis in Central America as there are in the United States.
Later in the show, Payne clarified that “we have no way of independently confirming” the claims Ward made about migrants carrying diseases.
Ward’s comment comes after Trump claimed last week that there were “unknown Middle Easterners” mixed in with the Central American migrants. The president, who has made the caravan a key part of his pitch to voters in the closing days of the midterms campaign, later admitted he had no proof for his assertion.
On Monday, despite the suspect in a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh over the weekend being in-part inspired by hatred for the migrant caravan, Trump returned to the subject.
“Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border,” Trump tweeted. “Please go back, you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process. This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!”
Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border. Please go back, you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process. This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2018
Update: This story was updated to include comments from Charles Payne clarifying the remarks.
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