President Donald Trump on Friday spread an unverified rumor that border ranchers had found prayer rugs on their property, amid his ongoing push for a wall along the US-Mexico border.
“Border rancher: ‘We’ve found prayer rugs out here. It’s unreal,'” he tweeted. “People coming across the Southern Border from many countries, some of which would be a big surprise.”
Trump was referring to a recent Washington Examiner article that quoted an unnamed rancher in Lordsburg, New Mexico, who said she believed many migrants from countries other than Mexico were crossing the border, though she hadn’t personally seen any.
“People, the general public, just don’t get the terrorist threats of that. That’s what’s really scary,” the rancher said. “You don’t know what’s coming across. We’ve found prayer rugs out here. It’s unreal. It’s not just Mexican nationals that are coming across.”
Prayer rugs are not an indicator of terrorism or terror suspects — Muslims use them to pray.
While it’s true that migrants from around the world try to enter the US through the southern border, including Middle Easterners, the numbers are minuscule.
Read more: THE TRUTH ABOUT THE BORDER CRISIS: Experts say there is no security crisis, but there is a simple way to fix immigration — and it’s not a wall
Customs and Border Protection data show that in the fiscal year 2017 — the most recent year for which data is available — people from Middle Eastern countries like Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Saudi Arabia were arrested at the US-Mexico border.
But the numbers barely register in comparison to the tens of thousands of Mexicans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans arrested at the border. For instance, just six Syrians were arrested at the border in 2017, as were 14 Saudi Arabians, and 10 Jordanians, compared to more than 16,000 Guatemalans.
Critics of the Washington Examiner pointed out that the outlet also provided no evidence of the rugs, and the rancher offered none. Though the article included video footage of the rancher, obscuring her face, she told the reporter that she had never personally seen any migrants that appeared to be from the Middle East.
“No, I’ve never run into any what they would consider OTMs (other-than-Mexican nationals),” she said. “But I’ve never seen any Middle Easterners. I’ve seen prayer rugs, but I’ve never seen any myself.”