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Fake news: Social media reports of deportation checkpoints false, designed to cause panic, authorities say

Fake news: Social media reports of deportation checkpoints false, designed to cause panic, authorities say
Hoax social media warning warning of deportation checkpoints. (Fontana police)

Law enforcement authorities are warning about social media hoaxes falsely claiming that police are setting up checkpoints aimed at deporting people here illegally.

Police and federal immigration officials said no such checkpoints are planned. They have received questions about it from people who saw information about the checkpoints on social media.

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Fontana police said they are investigating the origin of the hoaxes.

"It appears that unknown subjects are trying to create a public panic and we want our community to be assured that this is a complete hoax," the department said in a statement. "We understand that fake news can spread quickly via social media and encourage you to always fact check things you read or hear."

Los Angeles Police Officer Mike Lopez said the only checkpoints in Los Angeles this Super Bowl weekend are aimed at drunk drivers. He said law enforcement agencies set up these checkpoints every year.

Immigration groups said the claims of deportation checkpoints, which have surfaced on Instagram and other social media platforms, have unnerved some in the U.S. without proper papers. President Trump has vowed a crackdown aimed at deporting those here illegally and building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.

"We know there will be real, definite actions coming that will affect a lot of people," said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights. Given that, "people are going to put some more stocks in these rumors."

His organization has heard about social media messages warning of checkpoints in San Pedro, the Inland Empire and other locations.

Cabrera said this week's detention in airports after the Trump administration restricted travel from some Muslim-majority countries has heightened concerns.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice said the checkpoint rumors have been circulating across the nation this week. She said that while the agency does run operations involving immigration enforcement, it does not create random checkpoints aimed at mass deportations.

"Rumors currently being circulated — primarily on social media, claiming the agency has set up checkpoints at multiple locations in Los Angeles — or that the agency is conducting random 'raids' are completely baseless," she said. "The agency is working diligently to address these false reports, and we urge the media not to give them credence. It only encourages ill-informed people to act irresponsibly."

The American Civil Liberties Union maintains that U.S. Border Patrol agents are supposed to operate within 100 miles of the nation's borders. The agency has, however, in the past rejected that idea.

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UPDATES:

6:30 p.m.: This post was updated with LAPD comment.

6:15 p.m.: This post was updated with comments from activists.

Originally posted at 5:44 p.m.

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