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Posts claiming open US borders misuse photo from England

A meme purports to juxtapose US airport security measures with a crowd of migrants effortlessly crossing the border. But the photo of the latter is misrepresented; it was taken in Kent, England.

"You at the airport," says text over a picture of a transportation security agent watching a woman pass through a full-body scanner.

A second photo shows people walking in front of an orange boat. Above it, text says: "Some random strangers at the border."

<span>Screenshot from Facebook taken February 5, 2024</span>
Screenshot from Facebook taken February 5, 2024

The side-by-side comparison rocketed across Facebook, Instagram and X, formerly Twitter, in February 2024 as US Republicans angle to make immigration enforcement a defining issue of the 2024 presidential election.

President Joe Biden has committed to signing a bipartisan bill that would tie $20 billion in new funding and the toughest border security measures in a generation to $60 billion in aid for Ukraine. But former president Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2024, has been pressuring lawmakers to kill the effort to deny Biden a win.

The gridlock comes amid rising tensions at the border, where the state of Texas has continued fortifying the banks of the Rio Grande despite a Supreme Court ruling that sided with the federal government in allowing Border Patrol agents to remove concertina wire barriers.

But the image shared online is unrelated to the US-Mexico border.

A reverse image search reveals Gareth Fuller, a photographer with the Press Association, a British news agency, took the photo in the United Kingdom on May 17, 2022 (archived here).

"A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dungeness, Kent, onboard the RNLI Dungeness Lifeboat, following a small boat incident in the Channel," says the caption of the picture, which accompanied several articles from The Independent newspaper (archived here and here).

Screenshot from the PA Images website taken February 6, 2024

The English Channel is the part of the Atlantic Ocean that separates the United Kingdom from France, across which migration is common.

Approximately 46,000 people crossed the Channel in small boats in 2022, according to the University of Oxford's Migration Observatory. The British government posts daily totals online.

The other photo in the posts showing an airport body scanner dates to at least January 2018, reverse image and keyword searches show (archived here). Trump was president at the time.

AFP has debunked other misinformation about immigration and the border here.