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The Drudge Report chose a very misleading photo for a child immigration story

It’s not only a case of “wrong brown people”; the photo’s overall implications are wrong too.

In the middle of a growing national controversy about the US’s family separation policy at the Mexico border, one of the most highly trafficked conservative news outlets has depicted the issue with a photo of Syrian kids holding toy guns.

Brian Tashman, a researcher at the American Civil Liberties Union, pointed out the Drudge Report’s photo mishap on Twitter:

The Drudge Report largely aggregates news stories from around the globe with a conservative spin, typically tagging them with a headline and photo.

In this case, the Drudge link goes to a Washington Examiner story noting that “[t]he Trump administration could be holding 30,000 illegal immigrant children by the end of August as a result of its push to enforce federal immigration laws, which has led to the separation of children from their parents and guardians as those adults are prosecuted.” Syria is never mentioned in the story.

Nonetheless, the Drudge Report used a 2012 photo taken by Christiaan Triebert. The photo’s caption: “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.”

Triebert told me that Drudge’s use of the photo is “an obscene misrepresentation of what the photo actually depicts.” He also took issue with Drudge not attributing him for the image, and for Drudge’s possible commercial use of the photo — both of which violate the licensing terms under which it was uploaded under.

The Drudge Report did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This is, first, a case of “wrong brown people.”

It also carries some pretty wrong implications about the people coming over the border. It is not the case, despite President Donald Trump’s remarks, that immigrants are much more likely to bring crime and violence to the US. In fact, the opposite is true. Take this chart from the Pew Research Center, which depicts the prevalence of criminal activity among different generations of immigrants and native-born Americans:

As the Pew chart shows, first-generation immigrants are considerably less likely to commit crime. To the extent that second-generation immigrants commit crime at closer rates to that of native-born Americans, that’s actually them ditching the approach of their better-behaved parents and moving closer to the American norm of more criminal activity.

This should be intuitive: The people coming to the US are doing so to make a better life for themselves, and many of them are trying to escape crime and violence in Latin American countries that are often engulfed in both. This kind of selection bias likely makes it so the people immigrating to America are simply less likely to be interested in committing crimes.

So Drudge’s image choice doesn’t just misconstrue the race of the kids who are being captured and separated from their families at the border; it also fails to get their criminal behavior — or, really, lack thereof — correct.

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