Conservatives blanketed users’ feeds across social media on Monday with a photo of what they insinuated was a surge of migrants numbering in the thousands crossing the U.S. border from Mexico.
From former congressional candidates to cryptocurrency influencers, conservatives discussed the photo in apocalyptic terms, characterizing the group pictured as an invading force that had only grown increasingly emboldened by the perception of weakness in President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.
The migrant crisis has attracted greater scrutiny with this week’s end of Title 42, a Trump-era policy allowing asylum seekers to be turned away under the guise of the COVID-19 health emergency. The Biden administration fought to maintain the law in court but was ultimately unsuccessful, raising concerns from critics that the administration is left with few tools to stem the tide of undocumented migrants seeking to enter the U.S.
Drone footage from outlets like Fox News shot over the weekend showed long lines of migrants entering the U.S. through places like Brownsville, Texas. But some Twitter users, trying to illustrate the problem under Biden’s watch, used a photo showing a scene from when President Donald Trump was in office.
Guillermo Arias, a Tijuana-based photojournalist, told his own story in the captions of the pictures, which are still widely available on hosting sites like Getty Images.
While the photos have been used to suggest an impending invasion of the U.S., the aerial view of Honduran migrants was actually taken on October 27, 2018, in the southern Mexican town of Arriaga on their way to San Pedro Tapanatepec.
A reverse image search of the photo using the TinEye application found that the image was used in several hundred news articles over the years, including in reporting by outlets like the New York Times.
Most, however, were used in the context of discussing the 2018 migrant caravan that received wall-to-wall coverage from conservative news outlets and whispers of potential military involvement in the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections in which Democrats regained control of the House.
“There are more migrants on the way to the US-Mexico border than there are troops involved in the Russia-Ukraine conflict,” wrote Ian Miles Cheong, a right-wing internet personality with nearly 579,000 Twitter followers. “Let that sink in.”
“What’s happening on our Southern Border isn’t a crisis,” Prager University personality CJ Pearson wrote in one tweet featuring the photo. “It’s an invasion.”
At the time the photo was taken, Mexican authorities sought to stem their travel. According to reporting, Mexico said it would offer any of the more than 7,000 Central American migrants involved in the caravan medical care, education for their children and access to temporary jobs as long as they stayed in two southern states, a call that many chose not to heed.
By the close of 2018, the Trump administration had apprehended more undocumented women and children attempting to cross the border than at any juncture since the Obama administration, according to Customs and Border Protection data at the time.
Some conservatives believe the border crisis could be used against Biden in 2024, with Trump seeking a second term.
“Trump is up 7 points over Biden in the latest ABC poll [which never showed a Trump lead in 2020],” conservative commentator Rogan O’Handley wrote in his own post featuring the photo. “This invasion on our southern border will push that 7 up to a 12….”