If you’ve got an internet connection, you may have heard that Vice-President Kamala Harris had found an unlikely market for her picture book: child refugees. The story has spread over multiple popular news agencies and even landed in a White House press briefing, where it made a splash as a sign of the administration being out of touch regarding the needs of migrant kids. While it’s true that President Joe Biden’s administration hasn’t been as aggressive on reforming refugee policy as he said he would be on the campaign trail, Harris’ book is not actually part of the child refugee welcome kits.
The rumor started at the New York Post, with a since-retracted article reporting that Superheroes Are Everywhere, a 40-page picture book Harris published in 2019, was being included in the “welcome kits” child migrants receive at shelters along with things like toothbrushes and soap. Fox News amplified the article on its own platform, where it was shared by notable personalities like Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and Senator Tom Cotton.
The rumor appears to be the result of a photo taken at a Long Beach, California migrant detention center that had hosted a book drive for incoming kids. A single copy of Harris’ book had been donated, made it into a photograph and that photo spread like wildfire, prompting speculation that tax dollars were being used to provide every incoming refugee with a copy of Superheroes Are Everywhere.
The Biden Administration has struggled with an influx of unaccompanied migrant children at the southern border, many of whom end up detained in these centers while the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tries to resettle them with family members or a sponsor family. Long Beach Entertainment and Convention Center is currently doing “emergency” work in an attempt to help shelter a recent surge of such kids, housing around a thousand migrants up to 12 years old for boys and 17 years old for girls. Long Beach residents are able to volunteer their time and resources to help keep the kids safe, comfortable and entertained — hence the book drive.
The photograph of Superheroes Are Everywhere was originally published by Reuters but made its way to the New York Post, which falsely wrote that “Unaccompanied migrant kids brought from the U.S.-Mexico border to a new shelter in Long Beach, Calif., will be given a copy of her 2019 children’s book, Superheroes Are Everywhere, in their welcome kits.” Fox News ran a similar story the next day, using the same photo of a single copy of the book.
The New York Post has since amended its article with an editor’s note that says “The original version of this article said migrant kids were getting Harris’ book in a welcome kit, but has been updated to note that only one known copy of the book was donated to a child.”
The original writer of the Post article resigned, saying that she was “ordered” to write the original story against her better judgment.
The Kamala Harris story — an incorrect story I was ordered to write and which I failed to push back hard enough against — was my breaking point.
— Laura Italiano (@Italiano_Laura) April 27, 2021
Fox News has also amended its original article to say that “In a previous version of this story, it was implied there were multiple copies of Harris’ book available for children in welcome packs.”
The Biden Administration has been rightly criticized for failing to uphold its promises to refugee advocates. There’s plenty of valid criticisms to leveled at the way they’ve handled this issue. But Harris’ picture book is not one of them.