Viral Photo of Caged Child That Sparked Outrage Was Not From a Detention Facility

A photo of a child crying, his hands grasping what appears to be a cage, has gone viral in the midst of a national immigration debate. Filmmaker and journalist Jose Antonio Vargas shared the photo on June 12 and has already received more than 25,000 retweets on Twitter.

“This is what happens when a government believes people are 'illegal.' Kids in cages,” Vargas wrote on Twitter along with the photo.

But the photo of the boy was not taken at a detention facility. The boy is not a detainee, fact-checking website Snopes reported. The website says the picture was “miscaptioned” because it was taken on June 10 during a protest of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, which has resulted in the separation of at least 2,000 migrant children from their families.

The protest was held by the Brown Berets de Cemanahuac, an indigenous advocacy organization. The group posted photos of their protest on Facebook, but the viral photo was not featured on their page. The little boy in the picture can be seen in the background of the protest.

Leroy Pena, head of the Brown Berets' Dallas-Fort Worth chapter, told CNN that the small boy was taking part in the protest with his older siblings. Pena told CNN he posted the photo on his private profile before it went viral.

“He got confused on how to get out [of the cage] and cried when he saw his mother," Pena told CNN. "He was only in there about 30 seconds."

Pena said he was frustrated the photo was taken out of context, but he was glad that it helped start a discussion on what many immigrant children are facing now.

“Trump's supporters are mad at this simulation, but not mad at Trump for actually throwing children into dog kennels," Pena told CNN.

Vargas later noted that his caption may have been misleading, but he defended himself for sharing the photo.

"The U.S. government’s treatment of children is the culmination of the anti-immigrant hate enabled by right-wing ‘news’ sites, and the kind of hateful language that is all too common on this very platform." Vargas wrote on Twitter on Friday. 

Kirstjen Nielsen, the Department of Homeland Security secretary, tweeted on Monday that the agency does not have “a policy of separating families at the border.”

“For those seeking asylum at ports of entry, we have continued the policy from previous Administrations and will only separate if the child is in danger, there is no custodial relationship between 'family' members, or if the adult has broken a law,” Nielsen wrote on Twitter.

ProPublica published a recording on Monday of children crying for their parents in a border facility. One person in the recording, who is believed to be a U.S. border agent, can be heard mocking the children for their crying.

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