'The picture is completely devoid of context,' one expert said of the evidence-free claim.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton claimed without proof this week that the Biden administration was leaving brightly colored arrows on the ground to direct immigrants to the U.S.-Mexico border — a claim experts say is likely nothing more than empty fearmongering.
Cotton, who joined several other GOP lawmakers in a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border on Thursday to push xenophobic rhetoric about a crisis caused by rising numbers of immigrants entering the country, tweeted a photo of a yellow arrow on what appeared to be a white piece of paper or plastic, without any additional information to support the accusation.
"The Biden administration’s approach to the border crisis: arrows to show illegal immigrants the way to the U.S.," he wrote.
It was not immediately clear where Cotton had spotted the arrow, its purpose, or why he had suggested the Biden administration was responsible. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials were not immediately able to provide more information on the matter.
Immigration and border experts and advocates quickly pushed back on Cotton's claims, some calling them nothing more than fearmongering.
"The picture is completely devoid of context. We have no idea of what it refers to, or what is its source. We do not know if it is there coincidently," Josiah Heyman, who leads the Center for Inter-American and Border Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso, said in an email.
"Since we know nothing about the arrow, we cannot tell which direction it points, for whom it is intended, or what is its purpose. We do not who placed it there or when it dates from," Heyman added.
He noted that promoting such a photo was likely intended to spur more unfounded fears about immigrants. "The use of the arrow picture in a context-free tweet generates fear of foreign invasion," he said. "... It is a provocative symbol despite actual lack of information."
Former Border Patrol agent Jenn Budd, who has since become an immigration activist with the Southern Border Communities Coalition, said in a message to the American Independent Foundation that Cotton's image proved nothing.
"[It] could have been done in his backyard," Budd said. "It's ridiculous. ... This is a racist comment by a racist man."
Cotton was among a delegation of Republican senators, led by Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, who visited the border to drum up the GOP narrative of a border "crisis" caused by President Joe Biden's immigration policies, as well as his decision to roll back aggressive polices put in place by the Trump administration, which forced asylum seekers back across the border while they awaited their cases and separated thousands of families.
GOP lawmakers have repeatedly used the term to describe the situation at the border, parroting rhetoric from an anti-immigrant hate group, and urging one another to link the so-called "crisis" to Biden, despite the fact that border apprehensions were actually higher at times under Donald Trump.
Recent data analysis from experts at the University of California, San Diego, has suggested that there is no evidence of a "crisis" at the border, attributing the increase in immigrants crossing the border as in part a "usual seasonal increase."
"CBP’s numbers reveal that undocumented immigration is seasonal, shifting upward this time of year," the experts said, publishing their findings in the Washington Post.
A Guardian report citing CBP figures also found that the current rise in immigration at the border began before Biden's election.
As of February, Border Patrol agents have detained less than double the number of undocumented immigrants per month than they did in 2000, data showed.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.