Is it true? Are immigrant children being held in cages as a result of Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy at the border? Although some of the photos showing the enclosures that have been widely circulated actually date to 2014 and the Obama administration, recent photos and news stories from 2018 do show the children being held in what some journalists are calling cages and others chain-link fence enclosures.
Here’s what you need to know:
June 2018 Photos
Here are the June 2018 photos that are attributed to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. David Begnaud, a reporter for CBS News, wrote on Twitter on June 17, 2018 that the news media has been limited to photos provided by CBP, rather than being allowed to videotape the facilities. “These images were just released by border patrol @CBP showing the McAllen, Texas detention facility that we were allowed to tour today. For now, we can only rely on what they give us. They will not allow us inside to film on our own. Why? ‘Privacy’; they don’t want faces shown,” he wrote. You can see the photos below; they show some adults and some children:
Begnaud also posted this photo:
The Texas Tribune published the photos too on June 17, 2018:
One comment getting a lot of attention was made by Anne Chandler, executive director of a Texas non-profit, to Texas Monthly in describing what happens when parents are separated from their children. She said that immigrant parents are sometimes told, “Your child needs to come with me for a bath” before they are taken away. In one case, she said a child “started screaming and vomiting and crying hysterically” and the mother asked if she could console the child for five minutes and was told no.
Begnaud has also been sharing other information on Twitter.
News Media Accounts Described ‘Cages’ in June 2018
News articles published in June 2018 from reputable news organizations indicated that immigrant children were being held in cages. The Associated Press was allowed to tour facilities holding immigrant children in June 2018 and reported that they were being held in “cages.”
“Inside an old warehouse in South Texas, hundreds of children wait in a series of cages created by metal fencing. One cage had 20 children inside. Scattered about are bottles of water, bags of chips and large foil sheets intended to serve as blankets,” that article began. You can read it in full here. It was published on June 17, 2018.
The AP further reported in that story that “the cages in each wing open out into common areas to use portable restrooms. The overhead lighting in the warehouse stays on around the clock. The Border Patrol said close to 200 people inside the facility were minors unaccompanied by a parent. Another 500 were ‘family units,’ parents and children.”
Also writing on June 17, 2018, the Los Angeles Times referred to them as “chain-link fenced spaces.” According to The Los Angeles Times, “The center’s two massive rooms were separated into 22 chain link-fenced spaces, many labeled ‘cells’ with netting on top to prevent escapes. They’re cleaned three times a day.” An official said fencing was used “because it was cheap and see-through,” The LA Times reported.
A Central Processing Center Is the Focus of Attention
The photos of the chain-linked fence enclosures/”cages” derive from a border patrol processing center in McAllen, Texas.
The Washington Post reported in early June 2018 that Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley had claimed on CNN that children at the border were being held in cages. “When I was at the center at McAllen Border Station, this is the processing center, earlier and I was admitted there and I did see the people, hundreds of children locked up in cages there at that facility,” he said to CNN in the June 4, 2018 interview. “…They have big cages made out of fencing and then wire and nets stretched across the top of them so people can’t climb out of them.”
The Washington Post set out to fact check the Merkley claim and reported, “Although the Trump administration is not the first to separate immigrant children from their parents, the practice is on the rise because of this ‘zero-tolerance’ policy.” The newspaper reported that McAllen is a processing center that holds children for no more than three days before they are sent to shelters or foster homes. The Post noted that it had found photos from the McAllen facility in a local newspaper, The Monitor, and it showed the “cages” at the facility in 2014 that the senator described in 2018.
You can see that article and its photos here. The 2014 article reported, “Metal benches, green sleeping pads and chain-link fence enclosures awaited kids picked up by Border Patrol at the Rio Grande Valley’s first central processing center for unaccompanied immigrant children.”
In its 2018 story, The Post quoted a Trump administration official as explaining, “These short-term facilities do not employ the use of ‘cages’ to house UACs [unaccompanied alien children], but portions of the facility make use of barriers in order to separate minors of different genders and age groups. This is for the safety and security of all minors in the custody of the United States government.”
NPR, however, quoted a spokeswoman for a non-profit sheltering some of the children as saying those children were not held in cages. That article was published June 14, 2018. NPR described that facility as “the largest government-contracted migrant youth shelter in the country” and “a former Walmart supercenter converted into living, recreational and dining quarters for nearly 1,500 immigrant boys.” You can see photos of it here. That’s not really a discrepancy, though, if you consider that the McAllen processing center is a shorter-term facility before children are separated from their parents under the Trump administration approach and sent to shelter while the parents are proceeding through the court system.
More on Those 2014 Photos From Obama’s Administration
However, other photos showing children in cages that some on social media have said are recent are not; those photos date to 2014 and the Obama Administration, according to The Associated Press. One key difference between the two policies, according to news articles: The children during the Obama era were being sheltered generally because they had crossed the border alone. Global News.ca reported that journalists and activists had shared the 2014 photos, mistakenly thinking they were 2018 pictures.
These were among those 2014 photos:
Jon Favreau, a former Obama speechwriter, was among those who shared them, reported the site. He’s still tweeting about the policy. According to The Washington Post, the mayor of Los Angeles also mistakenly tweeted out the 2014 pictures.
“They were taken by Ross D. Franklin, a photographer from The Associated Press, at a centre run by the Customs and Border Protection Agency in Nogales, Ariz,” reported Globelnews.ca. Trump also tweeted in late May about the 2014 photos, writing, “Democrats mistakenly tweet 2014 pictures from Obama’s term showing children from the Border in steel cages. They thought it was recent pictures in order to make us look bad, but backfires. Dems must agree to Wall and new Border Protection for good of country…Bipartisan Bill!”
In 2015, The Washington Post reported on an effort to get juvenile smugglers out of their trade, reporting, “young Mexicans are being held for months without charge in shelters across the United States, sometimes without their parents’ knowledge.”
Here are some other June 2018 images from the American/Mexican border that were published by Getty Images in June 2018: