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Fact-checking misinformation about the migrant caravan

Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde October 25, 2018

Misinformation about a migrant caravan heading to the United States is spreading on Facebook and other social media platforms with users sharing false or misleading memes and posts that paint a skewed version of the facts.

PolitiFact has fact-checked many of those claims. A hurricane about to strike the caravan? False. That viral image purportedly showing caravan migrants on top of a train? False. At times, unsubstantiated claims came from the White House.

Here’s a brief summary of the facts:

• It’s estimated that about 7,000 people are in the migrant caravan. They are still far from reaching the southern U.S. border. Most are still walking from southern Mexico.

• The majority are believed to be from Honduras. Many of them say they want to request asylum in the United States, fleeing gang violence. Others are coming seeking jobs due to poverty and economic hardship in their countries.

Here’s what’s not true or lacks corroborating evidence.

Trump: "unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in" the caravan

President Donald Trump on Oct. 22 tweeted that "unknown Middle Easterners" were in the caravan.

But there’s no proof — something Trump acknowledged a day after making the claim. Reporters on Oct. 23 asked Trump for his evidence. Trump said he had "very good information" and that "there could very well be" Middle Easterners in the caravan.

Pressed for more information, Trump said, "There’s no proof of anything."

"Intensifying Hurricane Willa headed directly toward 10,000 migrant caravan path."

This is False. Hurricane Willa was projected to make landfall in Mexico, but nowhere near the caravan’s current location.

A headline on a site called Patriotic Express misled by giving the impression that the hurricane was headed directly toward the caravan. The headline also overstated the number of people reported in the caravan.

Viral Facebook post claims pictures show current caravan migrants on trains and buses

False. A post on a Facebook group called "Drain the Swamp" used old images to falsely claim that migrants currently traveling in the caravan are coming in buses and on top of trains.

None of the photos accurately depict the current caravan. The photos are from 2013 and of another caravan in April. The claim void of facts has been shared more than 85,000 times on Facebook.

A 2013 Associated Press photo of men atop a train was taken to illustrate the risks some migrants take to get to the United States. The other image of people outside coach buses is credited was taken for AFP/Getty Images in April of this year, when another migrant caravan was enroute to the United States. There are people in the current caravan coming in trucks and other vehicles, but most appear to be walking.

"The illegal caravan of immigrants are flying the Honduras flag as they burn the American flag as they march towards the USA wanting asylum!"

What’s blazing is the claim. We rated it Pants on Fire.

The Facebook post that’s been shared more than 20,000 features three images: one showing a man’s face as he lights a flag on fire, another of a flag burning on the ground, and a third of a man holding a burning flag surrounded by a group.

But the photos are not from the migrant caravan.

All photos were taken years ago during protests in London and the United States. One of the flags burning was not even an American flag. We have not found credible reports of caravan migrants burning the American flag.

" 'Caravan' migrant army paint swastika on American flag, burn it in the street."

False. This claim has been shared more than 20,000 times on Facebook, but the photo is mischaracterized. It is not of a "caravan migrant army" burning a defaced U.S. flag.

The AP photo was taken at a protest in Honduras when the caravan had already passed through Guatemala and was stalled at the Guatemalan border with Mexico. AP told us the photo was taken in front of the U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on Oct. 19 during a protest against Trump’s response to the caravan and as a show of solidarity for the caravan.

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Fact-checking misinformation about the migrant caravan