Debunked: Viral image of crying, caged toddler ‘detained by ICE’ not what it seems

Debunked: Viral image of crying, caged toddler ‘detained by ICE’ not what it seems
A distressing image of a crying toddler locked in a barred cage after purportedly being detained by US immigration officials has gone viral – but despite online claims, it does not actually depict what has been alleged.

The image, which shows a little boy crying in a cage as he looks out between its bars, was shared by activist journalist and undocumented migrant Jose Antonio Vargas as a comment on the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown on families.

In the same thread, Vargas admitted that he came across the photo on a friend’s timeline and was still looking for the original source. Nevertheless, the snap quickly went viral with Vargas’ post garnering more than 23,000 retweets and many others sharing the image across their own social media accounts.

Vargas explained that he shared the photo because when was he detained by ICE in McAllen, Texas in 2014, he encountered children who were locked up there. “It wasn’t okay then; it’s not okay now,” he wrote, adding that he’s been outraged about the incident for years.

It has since emerged that the picture was in fact not from a detention facility at all, and instead was taken at a protest against Trump’s immigration policies held on June 10 outside Dallas City Hall. The demonstration organized by Brown Berets de Cemanahuac was held to call out the policy of family separation and confining undocumented children.

The photo of the child in the cage was taken by Leroy Peña and posted, but apparently since deleted from his Facebook page. Peña confirmed to PolitiFact that he took the original photo, explaining that the boy had followed his brother into the enclosure and then got upset when he saw his mother outside. “He was only in there 30 seconds,” Peña said.

Other photos from the protest show the boy walking around.

Some activists, however, appear to believe that the origin of the photo is irrelevant, arguing that it documents a real issue even if this particular image is not as it first seems.

Arizona lawmaker Catherine Miranda was among those to defend the staged photo, reported Phoenix New Times. The Democrat senator who is running for US Congress shared the photo alongside the comment, “How does taking a 4-year-old from their parents and jailing them make us safer? The cruelty of Trump’s policies of today are real. Families belong together not torn apart and most definitely should not be caged like an animal.”

Despite several users bringing it to her attention that the circumstances of the photo were not what they were purported to be, she did not remove the post and criticised users for presenting her with the facts.

“You’re part of the problem of division. If I’m letting people know an example of a picture that Trump supports… jump on board with fighting against it. Stop being part of dividing our Latino community,” she responded.

READ MORE: Trump blames Dems’ ‘bad legislation’ for his own child-separation policy

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero-tolerance” policy that pledged to separate immigrants illegally crossing the border from their children in April. This was put into action by Homeland Security in May as they began referring all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution.

Almost 2,000 children have been separated from their parents in a six-week period, according to Department of Homeland Security figures obtained by AP.  

Some 1,995 minors were separated from 1,940 adults from April 19 through May 31, according to the figures. The separations were not broken down by age, and included separations for illegal entry, immigration violations, or possible criminal conduct by the adult.

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