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Hoax Image of Immigration Officers Arresting Voters Is Making Rounds on Social Media

This post was co-published with Univision. Lea en español.

An image has begun circulating on Twitter that appears to show an immigration officer arresting someone in line to vote. The image is a hoax, as is the accompanying threatening language directed at Hispanic voters.

The image is a composite of two photographs readily found on the internet, and there has not been a single report of anyone being arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement while voting as far as we are aware.

Tammy Patrick, a fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center and an elections expert said she has never heard of any federal effort to arrest Hispanic voters for immigration violations. “I have never, ever, ever heard of this happening. Ever,” she said, calling the photo “stomach churning.”

“It sounds like a step up from decades ago when ads were put out saying that if you hadn’t paid child support you will be arrested when you go to vote,” she said, referencing an effort in the early 2000s in South Carolina to dissuade black voters from voting.

Calls to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security were not immediately returned. We will update this post when we receive a response.

Pili Tobar, spokesperson for the Latino Victory Project, said images like this terrify many legal hispanic voters. “When you have images showing someone getting arrested by ICE at polling locations, that could show a lot of mixed-status families that they could be followed by ICE or targeted by ICE, and that they might be putting their family members at risk," she said.

This image originated, it appears, with a Twitter user named “Neil Turner.” The account which has about 29,000 followers is actually a bot, according to a New York Magazine story from earlier this year. The account is well-known for being among the first to respond to almost every tweet made by Donald Trump. It isn't widely known just who is behind the account, but according to one report, the man behind the account is a computer science college student in the South.

The image found its way to Electionland after a Twitter user replied to a tweet Univision sent out regarding our partnership. It appears the majority of his twitter responses today involve him tweeting this information out in Spanish to various Spanish-language publications, obviously in the hopes that Spanish-speakers will see it and be dissuaded from voting.

Here is the false tweet he sent to Electionland and Univision:

The picture is photoshopped from a photograph of a voting line outside of a March Arizona primary voting location - used widely by several media organizations - and a Wikipedia Commons picture of an immigration officer making an arrest. The photos are below:

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Jessica Huseman

Jessica Huseman covers voting rights and election administration for ProPublica.

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Rachel Glickhouse

Rachel Glickhouse is a journalist and the partner manager for the Electionland project.

About Electionland

ProPublica’s Electionland project covers problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections. Our coalition of newsrooms around the country are investigating issues related to voter registration, pandemic-related changes to voting, the shift to vote-by-mail, cybersecurity, voter education, misinformation, and more.

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