Fresh off insisting that his proposal to ban Muslims from America was “just a suggestion,” Donald Trump has now predicted that refugees with ISIS-funded cell phones will conduct another 9/11-like terrorist attack in the U.S. In a segment of Trump’s Sunday appearance on the National Border Patrol Council’s “Green Line” radio show, passed along by BuzzFeed News, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee agreed with the host that it would take another 9/11-scale event for Americans to “wake up about border security and take it seriously,” then proceeded to explain that he had “no doubt” the would-be attackers were already entering the country:
Bad things will happen — a lot of bad things will happen. There will be attacks that you wouldn’t believe. There will be attacks by the people that are right now that are coming into our country, because, I have no doubt in my mind. I mean you look at it, they have cell phones. So they don’t have money, they don’t have anything, they have cell phones? Who pays their monthly charges, right? They have cell phones with the flags, the ISIS flags on them. And then we’re supposed to say, ‘Isn’t this wonderful that we’re taking them in?’ We’re led by people that are either incompetent or they don’t have the best interest of our country at heart.
Trump’s opposition to and fear of Muslim refugees is very well known at this point, and this isn’t the first time Trump has obsessed over them having cell phones, either. During a GOP debate in December, Trump referred to “tens of thousands of people having cell phones with ISIS flags on them,” likely referring to a Norwegian news outlet’s report that month that authorities had found images and videos of ISIS flags, executions, dead children, and acts of torture on the phones of some refugees entering Norway, though a government official also pointed out that the presence of those images did not mean a cell-phone owner was a terrorist, i.e., the photographs could also have just been taken by someone who happened to live in or pass through an ISIS-controlled war zone, as a great many Syrian refugees have. Regardless, the single news report was heavily promoted in the right-wing media and on conspiracy-centric sites like Infowars. The Norwegian news post also only refers to hundreds of reports regarding the images, and it’s not even clear if that means hundreds of refugees, but it definitely doesn’t mean “tens of thousands of people having cell phones with ISIS flags on them.”
Trump referenced the phones again at a campaign event after the debate, wondering aloud for an Arizona crowd:
First of all, why are people in a migration having cell phones? It’s sort of strange. Who’s paying for those cell phones? Where are they coming from? Who are they calling? These are people — can you imagine, many, many, many cell phones. Why — Where do they get cell phones? Who pays their monthly bill? What do they do? Don’t they get billed by the phone company or something? … How come they have cell phones?
Of course, people all over the world have cell phones (even poor people fleeing a war zone), but not everyone in the world has a monthly cell-phone bill because they use a prepaid SIM card instead, especially outside — but also inside — the U.S.