Outdated photo spreads ahead of US border policy shift
Social media users are claiming a picture shows people approaching the US border with Mexico in May 2023 before pandemic-era immigration restrictions are lifted. This is false; the photo depicts Central American migrants heading toward the United States in October 2018.
"This invasion of the US is authorized by @JoeBiden's @WhiteHouse and being supported by @SenSchumer @SpeakerPelosi and the @TheDemocrats @HouseDemocrats @SenateDems," said former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik in May 7, 2023 Twitter and Instagram posts sharing the image. "Who is going to financially support these people? The American taxpayer!"
Similar posts warning of an "invasion" rocketed across Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms, amplified by prominent conservatives such as US Senator Mike Lee, former acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell and Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.
"These invaders will be entering our country this week," tweeted former Republican Senate candidate Lauren Witzke, a far-right activist who has promoted the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory. "We no longer have a nation. Prepare accordingly."
The posts spread as the United States prepares to lift Title 42, a pandemic-era program former president Donald Trump introduced to swiftly expel people trying to enter the United States. The Pentagon has sent troops to the border in anticipation of a potential surge of migrants after the protocol ends May 11.
But the image is not recent or related to the Biden administration's rule change.
AFP photojournalist Guillermo Arias took the picture October 27, 2018. It shows migrants leaving Arriaga, Mexico for San Pedro Tapanatepec in a trek toward the United States.
AFP and other media reported the caravan began with a group fleeing violence in Honduras and grew to several thousand people seeking to reach the US border, generating headlines and political controversy.
Writing for AFP Correspondent in 2019, Arias said he captured the shot using a drone.
"The police had blocked the road for a few hours, so the group had gathered together in one spot," Arias said. "The image really shows the scale and it was the last time that we have been able to make a picture like that. I think that was the moment that US President Donald Trump began to talk about 'an invasion.' When I made the photo, these people had already crossed three borders."
Other AFP photos from the time show the same scene.
Some social media users who misrepresented the picture -- including Lee, the US lawmaker from the state of Utah -- later clarified it was out of date.
"Update: apparently this is an old photo. My bad," Lee said in an edited version of his tweet.
AFP has debunked other misinformation about the end of Title 42 here.