Fact Check

Were Gun-Toting Children Photographed on the United States Border?

The Drudge Report used a years-old photograph of children in Syria holding toy guns without credit, a description, or attribution to illustrate a story about immigration to the United States.

Published Jun 18, 2018

A photograph shows children holding guns on the US-Mexico border.

On 18 June 2018, the front page of the Drudge Report news aggregator blog put up a link to a story accompanied by a photograph of a group of children, two of which appeared to be holding guns, and the headline "Border Battle: USA Taking in 250 Kids Per Day":

Even though the Drudge Report linked to a 2018 article about how the Trump administration "could be holding 30,000 border kids by August"  published by the Washington Examiner, the featured photograph was not taken in 2018, was not taken anywhere near either Mexico or the United States, and it has nothing at all to do with immigration.

The Drudge Report apparently deliberately chose to feature the misleading photograph (and phrase "border battle") amidst increasing outrage surrounding a Trump administration policy to separate children from families at the Mexico-United States border while failing to offer a description, note that the children in the image are holding toys, not actual weapons, or even credit the photographer, Christiaan Triebert, who took the picture in Azaz, Syria in 2012:

Four young Syrian boys with toy guns are posing in front of my camera during my visit to Azaz, Syria. Most people I met were giving the peace sign. This little city was taken by the Free Syrian Army in the summer of 2012 during the Battle of Azaz.

The web site eventually removed the image of Syrian children and replaced it with a slightly more relevant photograph, but this second attempt was still misleading and still failed to offer proper context or even attribution:

This photograph was not taken on the border of Mexico and the United States, and it was not taken in 2018. The image, which is from Associated Press photographer Eduardo Verdugo, was taken in 2013 in the southern Mexico city of Juchitán. It shows immigrants atop the infamous "Tren de la Muerte" ("Train of Death"), also known as La Bestia or The Beast, trying to make their way north to safety:

Migrants ride on top of a northern bound train toward the US-Mexico border in Juchitan, southern Mexico, Monday, April 29, 2013. Migrants crossing Mexico to get to the U.S. have increasingly become targets of criminal gangs who kidnap them to obtain ransom money. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

La Bestia has that name because it is an exceptionally dangerous method of travel that is only used by the most desperate, and few survive the ride unscathed:

The cargo trains, which run along multiple lines, carry products north for export. As there are no passenger railcars, migrants must ride atop the moving trains, facing physical dangers that range from amputation to death if they fall or are pushed. Beyond the dangers of the trains themselves, Central American migrants are subject to extortion and violence at the hands of the gangs and organized-crime groups that control the routes north.


Giaritelli, Anna.   "Trump Administration Could be Holding 30,000 Border Kids by August, Officials Say."     Washington Examiner.   18 June 2018.

Drudge Report.   "Border Battle: USA Taking in 250 Kids Per Day."     18 June 2018.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.