Fact Check

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 Jun 18, 2018

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.


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.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.