Fact Check

No, This 'Illegal Aliens' Meme Does Not Show the US Border

"The difference is obvious."

Published Oct 20, 2021

Would-be immigrants stand atop a boarder fence separating Morocco from the north African Spanish enclave of Melilla on October 22, 2014, following a morning assault on the boarder in an attempt to cross into Spain. The flow of migrants scrambling to reach Spain's north African territory Melilla is at double the rate of last year, an official said on October 21 as he defended police after a video showed abuse by border guards. The head of the Spanish government delegation in the territory, Abdelmalik El Barkani, said the number of attempts by desperate migrants to scale the seven-metre (23-foot), triple-layer fence separating Melilla from Morocco has surged in 2014.    AFP PHOTO/ BLASCO AVELLANEDA (Photo by Jesus BLASCO DE AVELLANEDA / AFP) (Photo by JESUS BLASCO DE AVELLANEDA/AFP via Getty Images) (JESUS BLASCO DE AVELLANEDA/AFP via Getty Images)
A meme comparing immigration and "illegal aliens" shows two photographs related to the United States.

This meme about immigration is often reposted with captions about America and Democrats. While the top picture does indeed show a real naturalization ceremony that happened in the U.S., the bottom photograph was captured on the Spain-Morocco border.

On April 5, 2019, a meme about American immigration was shared on Facebook. It mentioned immigrants and "illegal aliens," ending with the phrase, "The difference is obvious."

The top picture set the scene with a naturalization ceremony with American flags. The bottom photograph depicted what appeared to be migrants on top of a tall fence. The meme made it appear as if the fence was along the U.S.-Mexico border.

An American meme claimed that the difference was obvious between immigrants and illegal aliens but used a photograph from the Morocco and Spain border.

The reference to "illegal aliens" referred to people entering the country without legal permission.

Six days later on April 11, U.S. Rep. Steve King, a Republican who represented the state of Iowa at the time, reposted the meme. His caption read: "Learn the difference, Lefties."

We found multiple Facebook users who reposted the meme with captions about American immigration. Others mentioned Democrats.

A repost from Aug. 17, 2021, read: "No guarantee they are vaccinated." This appeared to refer to the picture of people on top of the fence in relation to unfounded COVID-19 fears.

The meme continued to be shared in October 2021, when we first published this story.

It's true that the top picture in the immigration meme showed a real naturalization ceremony in New York. It took place on July 3, 2018.

An American meme claimed that the difference was obvious between immigrants and illegal aliens but used a photograph from the Morocco and Spain border.
New U.S. citizens recite the Pledge of Allegiance during naturalization ceremony at the New York Public Library, July 3, 2018 in New York City. 200 immigrants from 50 countries became citizens during the ceremony, one day before America's Independence Day. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

However, the photograph of the people atop the fence was not captured on the U.S.-Mexico border. In fact, it had nothing to do with North America or even South America.

The picture appeared as the 18th photograph in a slideshow on the website for La Verdad, a Spanish-language daily newspaper based in Murcia, Spain. The incident in the picture took place at the Spain-Morocco border in October 2014, long before the COVID-19 pandemic. A Google translation of the Spanish caption read: "Dozens of immigrants try to jump over the Melilla fence. Of the 200 immigrants who have attempted the jump, around a hundred have managed to climb onto the railings of the fence and about 70 have remained hanging for hours."

On Oct. 23, 2014, The Guardian reported on the background of what was happening on that border: "Each year thousands of Africans – many of whom have spent years traveling across north and sub-Saharan Africa – try to reach Europe by making it past the fortified fence that separates Morocco from the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta. Many of them spend months living in makeshift camps on the Moroccan side, waiting for the opportunity to rush the fence."

Also published was the fact that "an immaculately groomed golf course complete with white-clad golfers teeing off" was what greeted the African migrants:

In sum, a viral meme began with a picture of a naturalization ceremony and American flags. However, the "illegal aliens" photograph was an old picture that was shot at the Spain-Morocco border. The meme ended with the words: "The difference is obvious." Since the second photograph had nothing to do with U.S. borders, we have rated this fact check as "Miscaptioned."


“African Migrants Look down on White-Clad Golfers in Viral Photo.” The Guardian, 23 Oct. 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/23/-sp-african-migrants-look-down-on-white-clad-golfers-in-viral-photo.
Decenas de inmigrantes intentan saltar la valla de Melilla. https://www.laverdad.es/fotos/nacional/201410/22/decenas-inmigrantes-intentan-saltar-3092226920097-mm.html.
La Verdad (Murcia).” Wikipedia, 27 Sept. 2021. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=La_Verdad_(Murcia)&oldid=1046714431.
“No Evidence Migrants at Border Significantly Spreading Virus.” Snopes.Com, https://www.snopes.com/ap/2021/03/10/no-evidence-migrants-at-border-significantly-spreading-virus/.

Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.