A photo of a little boy crying in a cage is being shared on social media as seemingly another heart-rending byproduct of the White House’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which separates undocumented parents and kids at the border.
There’s only one problem: The picture is being completely taken out of context – and does not show what it is purported to show.
Some of those sharing it claim the image depicts a boy detained by ICE under the new Trump administration policy of referring all people who cross the border illegally for criminal prosecution.
At least 2,000 children have been separated from parents at the border since the US started implementing the policy, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed on Friday.
Journalist and filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas posted the photo last week on Twitter, saying: “This is what happens when a government believes people are ‘illegal’. Kids in cages.”
Many respondents vented anger at the administration’s hardline immigration policies and encouraged people to retweet the photo. “Star Wars” actor Mark Hamill even tweeted – and later deleted – the picture along with the hashtag #UnAmerican.
Vargas also posted the image on Facebook, where it received almost 10,000 shares.
However, the picture was actually taken during a June 10 protest against White House immigration policies at Dallas City Hall, as first reported by fact-checking site Snopes.
Other Facebook photos from the protest, organized by the Texas chapter of the Brown Berets de Cemanahuac, a Latino advocacy group, show the same boy outside the cage as activists hold signs urging the White House to “stop separating families.”
Leroy Pena, head of the Brown Berets’ Dallas-Fort Worth chapter, took two pictures of the caged crying boy and posted them on Facebook with the caption: “This was part of our protest yesterday, but this is actually going on right now, at this very moment, in child detention centers throughout the country.” The post was later deleted, but a version is still on the Wayback Machine.
Pena told CNN the toddler was following his older sibling, who took part in the Dallas cage protest along with other teens.
“He got confused on how to get out (of the cage) and cried when he saw his mother,” Pena said. “He was only in there about 30 seconds.”
Pena expressed frustration at how the photo was taken out of context.
“I posted this on my personal profile and it was not set to public, but only friends. They shared it. Some of them shared it without my comment,” he said. But the image “did help bring attention to the plight of undocumented children,” he added.
“Trump’s supporters are mad at this simulation, but not mad at Trump for actually throwing children into dog kennels,” he said.
Vargas later said he realized the photo of the boy in the cage was misleading but defended his right to share it to make a point.
“Telling me that I shouldn’t post an image that, as it happened, was from a protest that staged what is actually happening at the border is like saying actors shouldn’t portray characters and situations based in real life,” he wrote on Twitter. “This is not a ‘cause’ for me. This is real.”
More than 1,100 immigrants, including children, are being held at a processing detention center in the border city of McAllen, Texas. Democratic lawmakers who toured the facility have described children being held inside chain-linked cages.
“We did see the children who were held inside here,” Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon told CNN’s Ana Cabrera on Sunday. “In wire mesh, chain-linked cages that are about 30 by 30 feet, a lot of young folks put into them. I must say though, far fewer than I was here two weeks ago.”
It is not the first time that alarming photos of caged children have been wrongly attributed to Trump administration policies.