Thursday night’s final debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden was much more civil than their last chaotic encounter. Still, there were plenty of tense exchanges over COVID-19, family business dealings, Bernie Sanders (yes, the Vermont senator), and immigration.
During the portion of the debate on immigration, moderator Kristen Welker asked Trump about the “Zero Tolerance” policy his administration instituted in 2018, separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The United States can’t locate the parents of more than 500 children. So how will these families ever be reunited?” Welker asked, referring to a court filing earlier this week by the ACLU.
Trump brought up human smugglers, but never directly answered the question.
“Children are brought here by coyotes and lots of bad people, cartels,” he said. “They used to use them to get into our country. We now have as strong a border as we’ve ever had.”
Biden disagreed with Trump’s assessment and shot back, “These 500-plus kids came with parents. They separated them at the border… Coyotes didn’t bring them over, their parents were with them.”
“Coyote” is a term used to describe someone paid to smuggle people across the southern border. But many Twitter users had never heard the word used in that context, and began sharing pictures of actual coyotes and gifs of cartoon character Wile E. Coyote.
“So does trump really think people are bare backin coyotes from Mexico into the US,” one person tweeted.
Another person wrote: “Did Donald Trump just say that KIDS ARE BEING BROUGHT INTO AMERICA BY… COYOTES???? LIKE WILE E COYOTE???? Did he do this???? I need answers!!!”
“Children are brought here by coyotes?” someone else asked the Twitterverse.
Legal services non-profit Raices Texas also joined the conversation and fact checked Trump.
“Migrant children separated by the Trump administration during Zero Tolerance came with their families, not coyotes. We know. We worked with the children who were sent to shelters after being separated. Facts matter,” the organization tweeted.
Read the reactions to the exchange below.
“Children are brought here by coyotes”
When asked if he has a plan to reunite parents and children separated at the US-Mexico border Trump says “they are so well taken care of”
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) October 23, 2020
Did Donald Trump just say that KIDS ARE BEING BROUGHT INTO AMERICA BY…
LIKE WILE E COYOTE????
Did he do this????
— Andreas Hale (@AndreasHale) October 23, 2020
children are brought here by coyotes?
— Auli'i Cravalho (@auliicravalho) October 23, 2020
Fact check: Migrant children separated by the Trump administration during Zero Tolerance came with their families, not coyotes. We know. We worked with the children who were sent to shelters after being separated. Facts matter.
— RAICES (@RAICESTEXAS) October 23, 2020