That post was shared more than 89,000 times in a year. The tweet was originally published on the same date, and it accrued more than 209,000 shares on Twitter:
The tweet (and repost) read:
Remember the piles of wedding rings taken from holocaust victims and how we see it now and wonder how we ever let the violation of human rights ever get so far well yeah [link]
Rosaries confiscated from immigrants at the Arizona/Mexico border
In the tweet embedded above, the user compares the confiscated rosaries to “piles” of wedding rings confiscated from Holocaust victims. Those referenced images circulated online in December 2018.
Neither the Facebook version nor the embedded tweet above included the original source link, a March 12 2017 New Yorker article headlined, “A Janitor Preserves the Seized Belongings of Migrants.” Although the image struck a chord in 2018 and 2019, the story was originally published in March 2017. Moreover, the items were collected throughout the previous decade, beginning in 2007:
Tom Kiefer was a Customs and Border Protection janitor for almost four years before he took a good look inside the trash. Every day at work — at the C.B.P. processing center in Ajo, Arizona, less than fifty miles from the border with Mexico — he would throw away bags full of items confiscated from undocumented migrants apprehended in the desert. One day in 2007, he was rummaging through these bags looking for packaged food, which he’d received permission to donate to a local pantry. In the process, he also noticed toothbrushes, rosaries, pocket Bibles, water bottles, keys, shoelaces, razors, mix CDs, condoms, contraceptive pills, sunglasses, keys: a vibrant, startling testament to the lives of those who had been detained or deported. Without telling anyone, Kiefer began collecting the items, stashing them in sorted piles in the garages of friends. “I didn’t know what I was going to do,” he told me recently. “But I knew there was something to be done.”
A gallery of images showing items collected by Kiefer included toilet paper, toothbrushes and toothpaste, condoms, wallets, and rosaries:
[Customs and Border Control] considers rosaries to be potentially lethal, non-essential personal property, and agents dispose of them during intake.
As the story goes on to explain, Kiefer quit his job in 2014 — several years before “zero tolerance” border policy and family separations were first announced in April 2018:
In 2014—after more than a decade working with C.B.P., and after seven years of sneaking out the trash—Kiefer quit his job to work on “El Sueño Americano” full-time. One day in Ajo, he ran into a secretary from his old job: the C.B.P. agents, she told him, were “furious” that he’d spent his on-the-clock time “stealing” government property for a private project. Working in his studio today—picking the next set of objects to photograph, arranging them just so—he thinks about his old colleagues at the border. Some were nice people, as far as he could tell; others, he felt sure, would be taking Trump’s anti-immigrant invective as license for new cruelties. Kiefer, for his part, has thrown away none of the possessions he collected. Maybe, he says, they could someday be housed in some sort of Arizonan Museum of Migration. Barring that, he plans to keep them.
Although the image is authentic and unaltered, it was worth noting that the confiscated items (wallets, condoms, and blankets among them) were gathered at some point between 2007 and 2014, well before the election of U.S. President Donald Trump and implementation of his policies. The image was interpreted outside of that context, but nevertheless, it is real.