Fact Check

Was a Small Child Handcuffed at Dulles Airport Due to Entry Restrictions?

A photograph from a separate viral outrage was recaptioned with the claim that it shows a small child in handcuffs at Dulles Airport in January 2017.

Published Feb 1, 2017

A photograph shows a small boy who was handcuffed at Dulles Airport due to temporary immigration restrictions implemented in January 2017.

On 31 January 2017, against the backdrop of a controversy over new immigration entry restrictions, a Facebook user shared the above-reproduced image of a small boy in handcuffs along with the following caption:

Detained at Dulles. I feel so much safer now.

As controversy continued to rage over a 27 January 2017 executive order which limits entry to the United States from a list of seven countries, social media users widely assumed that this photograph showed a child detained at Dulles International Airport because of the new policy.

However, we traced the image back to an August 2015 controversy in Kentucky involving sheriff's deputies handcuffing young students with learning disabilities:

The ACLU is suing Kenton County sheriff's Deputy Kevin Sumner, who works as a school resource officer at Latonia Elementary School in Covington. Sumner is accused of handcuffing an 8-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl, who both have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

It is not apparent whether the image circulated in error, or if it was purposely misidentified. However, it does not show a handcuffed child detained at Dulles in January 2017; it shows a handcuffed child detained at school in August 2015.

This is not to say that children have not been detained as a matter of course at airports across the country (including Dulles) as a result of the immigration restrictions, but this particular image does not show one of them.


Yan, Holly.   "School Resource Officer Sued For Allegedly Handcuffing Children With ADHD."     CNN.   4 August 2015.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.