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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Photos Don’t Tell the Whole Story on Border Trash

Quick Take

Old pictures of trash strewn in the Arizona desert are circulating on Facebook with the suggestion that they were taken recently and that the media failed to cover it. Neither of those things is true.

Full Story

Photos of trash near Arizona’s border with Mexico are circulating on social media with outdated and misleading information about immigration.

The photos were taken near Tucson in 2007 by a group called Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, an organization aimed at stopping illegal immigration that disbanded in 2010. A founder of the group, Christopher A. Simcox, was convicted of carrying an unauthorized firearm on federal land near the border in 2003 and is currently serving a 19-and-a-half year sentence for molesting a 5-year-old girl.

Even though the organization is defunct, it has left a lasting legacy with the photos it posted in 2007 that the group said show a “layup” or rest area used by migrants coming to the U.S. They’ve been circulating steadily online over the last decade, most recently in a post on Facebook that’s been shared more than 7,000 times since July 10.

Most of the text attached to the pictures in that post is the same as a 2010 chain email that was also posted on blogs and message boards when entertainers and some major cities boycotted Arizona following the passage of a controversial state immigration law, SB 1070. Two years later, in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down three out of the four provisions in the law that were challenged.

The text from 2010 that recently has been recycled claims: “The trash left behind by people illegally crossing our border is another Environmental Disaster to hit the USA. If these actions had been done in one of our Northwest Forests or Seashore National Parks areas, there would be an uprising of the American people… but this is the Arizona-Mexican border. You won’t see these pictures on CNN, ABC, NBC or the Arizona Republic Repugnant newspaper.”

While it’s true that these particular pictures don’t appear to have been used by those news outlets, The Arizona Republic and local ABC and NBC affiliates have covered the issue of trash at the border, as has a CBS affiliate in Texas, Reuters and NPR.

Beyond that, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality hosts a program to foster and document border clean-up projects. The state agency, which says border trash “is increasingly being found in areas that are more fragile and remote,” reports that 460,000 pounds of trash was picked up between 2007 and 2018.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.


Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. “Another Monster Layup Discovered by MCDC AZ SEARCH & RESCUE.” Minutemanhq.com. 28 Jun 2007.

Christopher Simcox Found Guilty on Two Counts of Molesting a Child.” Press Release. Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. 8 Jun 2016.

Arizona v. United States. No. 11–182. Supreme Court of the U.S. 25 Jun 2012.

Arizona Border Trash. Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. Accessed 7 Aug 2019.