Well everyone, it looks like the string of controversial Trump comments continues. On April 5, at a roundtable event on tax reform in West Virginia, the president decided to go off-script and weigh in on one of his favorite topics, immigration. Now, Donald Trump's comment about immigration and rape sparked huge backlash, and with good reason. Here we go again.
At the roundtable event, Trump was supposed to be discussing tax reform, but instead he actually threw his prepared remarks into the air and called them "boring." So instead, the president referenced his highly controversial 2015 campaign announcement, where he infamously called Mexican immigrants "rapists."
Reminiscing about the announcement, Trump said,
Remember my opening remarks at Trump Tower, when I opened, everybody said, 'oh, he was so tough.' And I used the word 'rape.' And yesterday it came out where this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody's ever seen before. They don't want to mention that.
It's unclear exactly what Trump meant by, or if he even has any evidence for his assertion that women are being "raped at levels no one has ever seen before." But when it comes to his phrase about "this journey coming up," Trump appeared to be talking about the caravan of Central Americans coursing through Mexico on their way to the United States, a topic Trump has already mentioned several times in recent days.
On March 30, BuzzFeed News reported that a caravan of Central American immigrants organized by the group People Without Borders was heading through Mexico in order to reach the United States safely. To no one's surprise, Donald Trump hasn't been a fan of this news. In fact, Trump has regularly spoken against the caravan and continued to do so at the roundtable on April 5. But, contradictory to Trump's disapproval of the caravan, this mode of transportation is actually meant to protect migrants from assault and harm, and that includes rape. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus took to Twitter to explain that traveling together as a group is safer than traveling individually.
It's well known that rape is a huge problem facing migrant women in Central America. On Aug. 29, 2016 Broadly reported that an "estimated 60 to 80 percent of female migrants from Central America are sexually assaulted on their journey." So yes, Trump is correct that women often face sexual assault while migrating across the border, but it's the way he delivers the comment that is completely inappropriate and devalues a huge safety issue for migrant women. Plus, as CNN points out, it's not obvious where Trump got the supposed evidence for his claim that rapes are on the increase.
So Trump has already got his facts wrong about the caravan, but wait, I'm not done yet. There's a third problem in Trump's comment that brings this controversy full circle, which is that the Trump administration has actively been working to deny abortions to undocumented rape survivors in their custody. Even though he may talk about migrant women being raped, in late 2017 the Trump administration attempted to stop an undocumented teen from getting an abortion, even though she said she was a rape victim. Other undocumented teens have also come forward to say that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), headed by Scott Lloyd, had denied them access to abortion services. The move was reportedly part of a policy put in place in March 2017 to not take "any action that facilitates an abortion without direction and approval from the director of O.R.R.," according to court documents obtained by the New York Times, a huge shift from an already existing policy under the Obama and Bush administrations. On March 31, a federal judge ruled against the policy and temporarily blocked the government from barring access to abortion services for undocumented minors.
Sadly, this isn't the first time Trump has portrayed immigrants in a negative and unfair light. In Donald Trump's official announcement of his bid for president in 2015, he delivered a speech that received huge backlash when he connected Mexican immigrants to criminals and rapists.
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. 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.
Mexico's not the only one he's attacked. During a meeting on Jan. 11, Donald Trump reportedly called Haiti and African countries "sh*tholes" while working out a bipartisan deal on immigration with members of Congress. The president later denied using that language.
Another day, another Donald Trump comment that sends shivers down my spine.