Fact check: Photos of ‘children in cages’ don't show migrant kids in U.S.

Update June 30, 2020: Including Secretary Nielsen’s testimony

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

A post claiming to show small cages holding migrant children who are sprayed with chemicals every day contains misleading and false information.

The Facebook post from June 22 includes two photos that appear to show children covered with foil blankets lying in individual cages ( here ). The pictures have also been used in other posts across Facebook and Twitter ( here , here and here ).

Superimposed onto the images in the first post is a screenshot of a headline from The New York Times, which reads: “U.S. loses track of another 1500 migrant children, investigators find.”

Next to the photo, the Facebook user has written a comment: “Idk (I don’t know) what you imagined when you heard ‘children in cages’. Here you go. Not to mention they’re being sprayed with chemicals daily. Nobody lost track of 1,500 kids, they are dead”.

Firstly, these photos do not show real children. They are images of an art installation that popped up in Des Moines, Iowa, in February. The installation was created to raise awareness of migrant children being detained at the U.S.-Mexico border and elsewhere in the country ( here , here ).

The U.S. has been scrutinized for its treatment of migrants, including children, at its detention facilities on its southern border. Video of the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen being questioned last year over whether migrant children at the border with Mexico are being kept in "cages" – alongside imagery of the detention facilities – can be seen here .

It is not clear what the user’s comment about being sprayed with chemicals refers to; however, a recent letter of complaint from the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice and Freedom for Immigrants did detail health issues reported from a migrant facility in California over the use of disinfectant.

The letter, sent in May, quotes detainees at the Adelanto Detention Facility who say they have suffered health complications such as rashes, nosebleeds, breathing difficulties, headaches and nausea as a result of strong disinfectant being sprayed frequently across the facility. There is no mention of children in cages being sprayed directly with chemicals ( ).

A similar complaint was also made to a detention centre based in Florida ( here ).

Finally, the post’s reference to 1,500 children that it suggests “are dead” is unfounded. The New York Times story referenced in the post is from September 2018 and is about unaccompanied migrant children who entered the United States illegally and were placed with sponsors after leaving federal shelters. A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services was quoted in the article ( here ) as denying the children were “lost”.


False. The images do not show real children being held in small cages, nor is there any evidence that children are being kept in such cages in the U.S. and being sprayed every day with chemicals. There is also no evidence that 1,500 migrant children have died.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .