“They raped us so many times they didn’t see us as human beings anymore.”
Months after President Donald Trump’s visit to McAllen, Texas prompted accusations by critics, including CNN’s chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta, that his trip was intended to hype up a “manufactured crisis” at the border, The New York Times reported Monday on the existence of a stash house within the border city where a migrant woman was raped.
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Acosta, who has clashed repeatedly and publicly with the Trump administration in the past, touted the purported safety of McAllen in several tweets published around the time the president visited the Hidalgo County city. “Folks in McAllen have put up a sign reminding Trump that this is one of the safest places in America,” he wrote in a January tweet that linked to a local news article.
A Jan. 10 tweet, in which Acosta claimed to see no evidence of a “national emergency situation,” was another apparent jab the president’s characterization of the situation at the border.
I found some steel slats down on the border. But I don’t see anything resembling a national emergency situation.. at least not in the McAllen TX area of the border where Trump will be today. pic.twitter.com/KRoLdszLUu
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) January 10, 2019
Nor was Acosta alone in pooh-poohing the idea of a crisis at the border. “Trump is now in McAllen, Texas to hype up his proposed border wall,” Amnesty International said in a Jan. 10 tweet. “The wall is nothing more than a manufactured crisis and a divisive symbol of fear. The real crisis is the horrific violence and persecution faced by desperate people and families who have fled home.”
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However, in an exhaustive review of police and court records, as well as interviews with migrant women, law enforcement, immigration advocates, and court officials, The Times found “more than 100 documented reports of sexual assault of undocumented women along the border in the past two decades.”
One woman’s account about her time in McAllen communicated the magnitude of the horror. Melvin, a 36-year-old mother of three from Guatemala, told The Times of how smugglers she’d paid to get her into the United States trapped her in a house, drugged her with pills and cocaine, and raped her repeatedly. “They raped us so many times they didn’t see us as human beings anymore,” she said.
What happened to Melvin, according to The Times’ reporting, is an all-too-common experience for undocumented women attempting the perilous journey across the US-Mexico border. Trump has partially made his controversial case for the necessity of a border wall by citing the appalling conditions migrant women face. “One in three women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico,” he said in January, citing a much-debated figure drawn, apparently, from various surveys.
In a reflection of how tangled the nature of the immigration debate can be when point-scoring is involved, conservatives, including White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, appeared to agree with Acosta’s assessment of the safety of McAllen, slamming the veteran reporter for “clearly explaining why WALLS WORK.”
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