FACT CHECK: Viral Photos Of Crowded Detention Centers Were Not Taken During The Trump Administration

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

The Facebook page Middle American Democrat screen grabbed a tweet that showed migrants in crowded rooms, wrapped in Mylar blankets. Originally shared by actress Nancy Lee Grahn, the post suggests that the photos depict children detained by the Trump administration.

“Trump administration is forcing children 2 sleep on cement floor with an aluminum blanket & lights on all night,” reads the tweet from Grahn.

Verdict: False

While these images do show crowded conditions at an Arizona holding facility, the pictures were taken in 2015, predating the Trump administration. Reports suggest that facilities continue to operate in comparably poor conditions.

Fact Check:

The U.S. maintains and operates detention centers along the southern border that serve to temporarily hold migrants apprehended by Border Patrol. Amid reports of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez referred to the centers as “concentration camps,” a comparison that was met with widespread criticism.

Middle American Democrat shared a quote tweet the other week echoing Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks. “I swore I saw someone say it was wrong to compare these to concentration camps, but this is in fact what it is,” said one user responding to Grahn’s tweet.

The post suggests that the Trump administration was responsible for the conditions shown in the tweet. However, the images were actually taken during the Obama administration.

Originally presented as part of the court case Doe v. Nielsen, immigrant rights groups submitted a total of 15 still images taken from security cameras at detention centers. The two shared by Grahn were taken at a Tucson facility in August 2015.

“Individuals wrapped in Mylar sheets sleep on the concrete floor and benches; cell so crowded there is no room to move around,” reads one of the photo captions.

While these conditions occurred under President Barack Obama’s watch, various reports have documented a similarly poor situation at some facilities run by the Trump administration. Sworn declarations, recently obtained from children and teenagers held at Texas facilities, describe detainees without adequate provisions being forced to sleep on the floor in Mylar blankets (often described as “aluminum” blankets).

A physician who visited a facility in McAllen, Texas, in June reported conditions including “extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food.”

In an attempt to alleviate the conditions, Congress recently approved, and the president signed, a bill granting $4.6 billion in aid to help the federal government deal with the influx of migrants at the southern border.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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