The caravan of Central American migrants traveling up through Mexico to the U.S. southern border is continuing to stir up political controversy. President Donald Trump is once again facing accusations of racism over his response to the matter, and now some of his supporters have decided to take illegal immigration issues into their own hands.
According to a new report, NBC News, Fox News and CNN have all announced that they will not air an anti-immigration ad sponsored by the 45th commander in chief, 72, which encourages viewers to vote Republican ahead of the midterms. The ad portrays members of the caravan, many of whom are women and children, as invaders and criminals and links them to an undocumented immigrant who was convicted of killing two law enforcement officials in California.
“America cannot allow this invasion,” the voiceover exclaims. “President Trump and his allies will protect our border and keep our families safe.”
A spokesperson for NBC’s advertising sales department, Joe Benarroch, explained the decision to pull the ad in a statement published by NBC News: “After further review, we recognize the insensitive nature of the ad and have decided to cease airing it across our properties as soon as possible.”
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Fox News pulled the ad without refuting anything specific about its content or tone. “Upon further review, FOX News pulled the ad yesterday and it will not appear on either FOX News Channel or FOX Business Network,” Marianne Gambelli, the president of ad sales for the network, said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.
CNN, meanwhile, never agreed to air the ad in the first place.
After Donald Trump Jr. complained on Twitter that CNN “refused to run” the ad, a CNN spokesperson responded in a tweet saying, “CNN has made it abundantly clear in its editorial coverage that this ad is racist. When presented with an opportunity to be paid to take a version of this ad, we declined. Those are the facts.”
In addition, Facebook stopped the ad from circulating via paid promotion because it allegedly violates the social network’s “sensational content” policy. That said, the ad is still up on President Trump’s verified Facebook page, where it has been viewed more than 300,000 times.
NBC, Fox News, CNN, Facebook and the White House did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s requests for comment. On Monday, the president stood by the ad, despite accusations that it was offensive. “Well, a lot of things are offensive,” he told reporters, according to NBC News. “Your questions are offensive a lot of times.”
Amid ongoing threats from Trump, thousands of migrants are continuing their journey through Mexico and toward the U.S. border, in search of a safer and more prosperous life. According to The New York Times, the migrants — who are fleeing poverty and violence in their home countries, including Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala — travel in caravans for protection against the criminals that stalk their trip north.
On Sunday, the migrant caravan, still about 4,000 people deep, entered the city of Cordoba in the Mexican state of Veracruz after completing what was known as the “route of death,” NBC reported. On Monday, several hundred travelers hit another milestone, arriving at Mexico City, according to BBC. The fractured group is still hundreds of miles away, and it’s unclear if it will reunite or where along the U.S. it will attempt to enter.
Amid Trump’s repeated attacks on the caravan, which he has turned into an election issue, some American citizens are so concerned about the issue that they’ve banded together to try to prevent the travelers from entering — alongside the military presence that the president has already ordered at the border.
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According to Defense Department planning documents obtained by Newsweek, an “estimated 200 unregulated armed militia members currently operating along the southwest border,” and there have been multiple “reported incidents” of them “stealing National Guard equipment.” The documents further explain that the groups “operate under the guise of citizen patrols supporting .”
One of these organizations is the Minuteman Project, which refers to itself as “citizen’s Neighborhood Watch on the southern border,” the magazine reports.
“We believe our nation is under attack by foreigners who refuse to accept the rule of law on how to become a citizen in the United States,” the project’s national political director Howie Morgan told the outlet. “Instead of following the rules, they are using our nation’s laws as a shortcut to get in front of the line.”
The Minuteman Project also encouraged forming more militia groups in a message on its homepage. “Your presence is needed everywhere along the 2,000-mile border from San Diego, California to Brownsville, Texas at any time for the next 90 days,” the statement read.
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As tensions over illegal immigration reach new heights, the president is making progress with his long-standing campaign promise to build a wall dividing Mexico and the U.S.
On Friday, CBS reported that the Texas-based construction company SLSCO received a $ 220 million contract to, in February, start constructing an 18-foot reinforced concrete levee wall in the Rio Grande valley, the busiest section for border crossings. SLSCO will also raise the height of existing fences.
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