Anecdote from Sen. Katie Britt’s criticism of Biden’s border policies appears to be from before he was president

Alabama Sen. Katie Britt graphically described a woman’s story of being “sex trafficked by the cartels starting at age 12,” during the Republican response to the State of the Union address on Thursday, using the story as an anecdote of, what she called, President Joe Biden’s failed immigration policies. But the story she seemed to describe didn’t take place during Biden’s time as president or vice president, nor did it happen in the United States.

“When I first took office, I did something different. I traveled to the Del Rio sector of Texas, where I spoke to a woman who shared her story with me. She had been sex trafficked by the cartels starting at age 12. She told me not just that she was raped every day, but how many times a day she was raped,” Britt said from her Alabama home.

She then described in detail how “the cartels put her on a mattress in a shoebox of a room, and they sent men through that door, over and over again, for hours and hours on end.”

“We wouldn’t be OK with this happening in a third-world country,” Britt said. “This is the United States of America, and it’s past time we start acting like it. President Biden’s border crisis is a disgrace. It’s despicable. And it’s almost entirely preventable.”

In a detailed video posted on TikTok on Friday, freelance journalist Jonathan Katz tracks down what appears to be the story Britt references and finds that it happened in Mexico in the mid-2000s, not while Biden was president or vice president.

Katz cites a 2023 press release from Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who, along with Sens. Britt and Cindy Hyde-Smith, went to Eagle Pass, Texas, in January 2023 – shortly after Britt took office – to hear from Karla Jacinto Romero, a human trafficking survivor, among others.

“The Senators learned about cartel activity in Mexico and the work being done to rescue victims of human trafficking,” the press release said.

Jacinto Romero has shared her story publicly, including in a 2015 hearing on sex trafficking held by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Human Rights. Through a translator, she said that for four years, starting from the age of 12, she was “emotionally and sexually violated time and time again.” She explained at how, at age 16, she was able to escape to a shelter and “grow into the activist” she became.

In the testimony, Jacinto Romero noted that she was 22 years old – meaning the sexual abuse began around 10 years earlier.

Britt has previously referenced the story she gave Thursday – including on Capitol Hill on September 27, 2023, according to her social media account.

In a statement to CNN, a spokesperson for Britt’s office neither confirmed nor denied Britt was sharing Jacinto Romero’s account, but said the story the senator told “was 100% correct.”

“The Biden Administration’s policies — the policies in this country that the President falsely claims are humane — have empowered the cartels and acted as a magnet to a historic level of migrants making the dangerous journey to our border. Along that journey, children, women, and men are being subjected to gut-wrenching, heartbreaking horrors in our own backyard,” spokesperson Sean Ross said.

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