Fact check: Trump did not mean actual 'coyotes' take children across the border

McKenzie Sadeghi, USA TODAY
·4 min read

The claim: Trump said actual 'coyotes' are taking children across the border

Online searches for the word "coyote" spiked 675% on Thursday evening after the final presidential debate.

Why?

When pressed on immigration after it was reported that 545 children had been separated from their parents at the U.S. border with Mexico, President Donald Trump had a response that left some social media users confused.

"Children are brought here by coyotes and lots of bad people, cartels, and they're brought here and it’s easy to use them to get into our country," Trump said.

Shortly after, a collage of screenshotted tweets from Twitter-verifiedaccounts that questioned Trump's "coyote" comment was posted to Facebook several times, along with photos of children photoshopped on a coyote, mocking those who were a bit baffled.

Among those confused by Trump's statement was Georgia state Rep. Dar'shun Kendrick, who tweeted about it.

Many prominent Trump supporters used the opportunity to insult those who were unfamiliar with the term "coyote."

USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook users and Kendrick for comment.

What did Trump really mean?

Trump used the term "coyote" when questioned by moderator Kristen Welker about his administration's plan to reunite the hundreds of immigrant children separated from their parents at the border.

A "coyote," also known as "el coyote" is a term for people who smuggle others across borders in exchange for payment.

"Smugglers from Central America to the U.S. work as loosely knit groups of people who operate independently in each of the countries along the route. There is no hierarchical structure between them," Latino USA reported.

Each group is in charge of arranging transportation and securing lodging, and the money charged to migrants is split among groups along the route.

More: Fact check: Trump told moderator to 'go ahead,' not that separated families are 'good'

"In return for his half of the bribe money, the immigration officer allowed the investigator to use his two best coyotes — a Spanish term applied to Mexicans hired to find countrymen willing to pay to get the United States,” reads a May 21, 1973, article from the New York Times.

Quartz reported in 2017 that based on estimates from researchers and migrant shelter officials, smuggling fees range from $4,000 to $10,000 for migrants coming from Central America.

According to the New York Times, smuggling fees from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala can be as high as $15,000.

More: 'They are so well taken care of': Trump defends separating migrant children from parents

Trump has used the term before

This is not the first time Trump used the term coyotes when talking about the border.

Trump brought up the term, referring to the U.S.-Mexico border, when signing the 2018 Farm Bill into law.

“A nation without borders is not a nation at all,” Trump said. “Without borders, we have the reign of chaos, crime, and — believe it or not — coyotes.”

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Later In 2019, he tweeted, "A very big Caravan of over 20,000 people started up through Mexico. It has been reduced in size by Mexico but is still coming. Mexico must apprehend the remainder or we will be forced to close that section of the Border & call up the Military. The Coyotes & Cartels have weapons!"

A search on the Trump Twitter Archive reveals that he has used the term "coyotes" in his tweets on five different occasions.

Our rating: Missing context

Trump did not mean literal coyotes are taking children across the border when speaking about immigration during the Oct. 22 presidential debate. "Coyotes" is a term used for people who smuggle others across the border in exchange for profit. Some social media postsare taking his comment out of context and confuse the term's meaning, therefore, we rate this claim as MISSING CONTEXT.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Trump's 'coyote' remark at debate taken out of context