Are Children Being Assigned Numbers in Detention Centers?

Viral posts on social media contain claims that immigrant children are receiving numbers like Holocaust victims.

  • Published


An image shows numbers on shirts worn by children taken into custody on the U.S.-Mexico border, a practice reminiscent of numbers tattooed on Holocaust victims.



On 17 June 2018, a photograph appeared on Facebook and Instagram with claims that it showed children wearing numbered shirts assigned to them by immigration authorities:

immigrant children number holocaust

The image showed a small boy wearing a “47” shirt, and posters explicitly compared the child to Holocaust victims:

This little boy, who has been taken from his parents, has been assigned a number. #47 on his chest and arm. Like the Holocaust. •••••••••••••••••••••••••• The Keep Families Together Act S-3036 has the support of All Democrats EXCEPT Claire McCaskill (D-MO) 202-224-6154; Joe Donnelly (D-IN) 202-224-4814; Joe Tester (D-MT )202-224-2644; Doug Jones (D-AL)202-224-4124; Heidi Heitkamp (D-NV) 202-224-2043; Joe Marchon (D-WV) 202-224-3954. At this point, NOT ONE Republican has signed on to this bill that would prohibit children from being separated from their parents. PLEASE CALL your members of Congress. 202-224-3121. Look at this image. It should send chills up your spine. We must not let history repeat itself. We must speak loud and clear. #Wherearethechildren

It appears that a complete version of the photograph appeared with a 16 June 2018 New York Times opinion editorial titled “You Can’t Be Pro-Life and Against Immigrant Children.” A caption for the photograph simply said:

A boy and father from Honduras being taken into custody by United States Border Patrol agents near the Mexico border on Tuesday.

A closer look at the image shows that the numbering is part of the shirt:

A separate article published by another outlet provided a similar description for a photograph clearly from the same set of images:

U.S. Border Patrol agents take into custody a father and son from Honduras near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018, near Mission, Texas. The asylum seekers were then sent to a processing center for possible separation.

The photographs showed Border Patrol agents taking in a father and son, neither of whom had yet been processed. The snapshot was captured as the pair were apprehended, meaning they had not been issued clothing. The uncropped images show a shirt manufactured for retail, not government issue.

  • Published

Camosy, Charles C.   “You Can’t Be Pro-Life And Against Immigrant Children.”
    New York Times.   16 June 2018.

Danner, Chas.   “Separating Families At The Border Was Always Part Of The Plan.”
    New York Magazine.   17 June 2018.