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Sofia Ahmed
By Sofia Ahmed April 4, 2024

No, the FBI did not say Venezuela sent its prison population to the U.S.

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  • News reports and the FBI’s press release archives did not show the FBI "admitted" that Venezuela transferred all its prisoners to the U.S.

  • The image in the post is from a 2011 Chino, California, prison. 

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There was no breaking news that Venezuela’s prison population was moved to the U.S., as an Instagram post claims. 

"FBI Now Admitting That Venezuela Emptied Their Prisons And sent their Inmates to U.S.," a March 29 Instagram post with improper capitalization reads. An image of shirtless men in orange prison uniform pants appears under the text. 

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

(Screengrab from Instagram)

A Reuters photographer took the photograph in the post in 2011 at a Chino, California, prison. 

We searched Google and the Nexis news archives, but found no reports of the FBI saying Venezuela had sent its prisoners to the U.S.

The FBI’s press release archives also had no such announcement. An FBI spokesperson said the agency had no comment in response to the post’s claim.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection publishes data on how many people with criminal convictions or who are wanted by law enforcement have encounters with immigration officials at U.S. borders. Criminals encountered are not let into the country, "absent extenuating circumstances," according to the agency.

The U.S. and Venezuela swapped some prisoners in December: Venezuela released to the U.S. 10 Americans who had been detained in Venezuela and the U.S. freed a top ally of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro while also requiring Maduro to free 20 Venezuelan political prisoners. 

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But this does not equate to a prison-emptying scenario.

The claim harks back to one that circulated in 2022, when 13 Republican members of Congress sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, requesting more information on an "intelligence report" that they said the Department of Homeland Security sent to Border Patrol agents. According to the lawmakers, DHS had told agents to look for violent criminals that Venezuela was deliberately releasing from prisons and pushing them to join caravans headed to the U.S. PolitiFact examined the claim then and found its only source was an article from the conservative news site Breitbart that credited an anonymous source.

Republican members of Congress wrote another letter to Mayorkas in February, telling him that he failed to respond to their initial letter and once again asked him to investigate claims that violent criminals were being sent to the U.S. border from Venezuela.

We have seen no new evidence that supports the 2022 claim that DHS sent an "intelligence report" about Venezuelan criminals being sent to the U.S. 

Former President Donald Trump made a similar claim about the Democratic Republic of Congo emptying its prisons and sending criminals to the U.S. border, which CNN could not substantiate.

We rate the claim that the FBI admitted Venezuela emptied its prisons and sent the inmates to the U.S. False. 

PolitiFact Staff Writer Maria Ramirez Uribe contributed to this report.

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No, the FBI did not say Venezuela sent its prison population to the U.S.

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