Social media was in a bit of a hubbub Thursday night over a comment by President Donald Trump at the final presidential debate against Joe Biden, when he said coyotes were taking children across the border.
Here’s Trump’s full quote, coming in response to a question from moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News about his plan for the 545 children whose parents still cannot be found after their families were separated at the border by U.S. authorities: “These children are brought here by coyotes and lots of bad people, cartels, and they used to use them to get into our country.”
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The president went on to make the case that “we let people in, but they have to come in legally,” and, “a lot of these kids came in without the parents.”
Setting aside the facts about that — studies have shown the vast majority of detained children came with one or both of their parents — the term “coyote” apparently made many people think Trump was referring to the animal, or even Wile E.
However, “coyote” is a common term for human smugglers along the U.S.-Mexico border.
When it was Biden’s turn to speak, he argued that the 500-plus children had in fact entered the country with their mothers and fathers. “Coyotes didn’t bring them over, their parents were with them,” he said. “They got separated from their parents, and it makes us a laughingstock, and violates every notion of who we are as a nation.”
Here’s the clip:
With tighter immigration policies and increased patrols by U.S. authorities, many would-be migrants feel they have little choice but to use coyotes to guide them across the border.
A 2019 study by the Rand Corp. found coyotes can charge between $6,000 and $10,000 per person to smuggle into the U.S., often via dangerous crossings in the desert. Some coyotes have been known to assault migrants, or ransom them to relatives.
Drug cartels play a role too. “They are our ticket into the United States, because they are the ones who control the border,” one unnamed coyote told Univision in a 2016 report.