What Is #BorderFreeCoffee? This Fake Starbucks Promotion Targets Undocumented Immigrants & It's Terrifying
Over the weekend, a rumor began circulating around the digital halls of Twitter that Aug. 11 would be "Dreamer Day" at Starbucks: according to the rumor, which has since been debunked, any undocumented immigrant would receive 40 percent off any menu item at Starbucks on that day. Using the hashtag #BorderFreeCoffee, some Twitter users praised the company for its alleged support of vulnerable immigrant communities. But "Dreamer Day" and #BorderFreeCoffee aren't real — they're a terrifying hoax allegedly created by 4chan in hopes of luring undocumented immigrants into the open, to then be detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.
Starbucks responded on social media, saying the company was not sponsoring any event targeted towards undocumented immigrants, and cautioning users against spreading "misinformation." "We don’t have anything further at this point beyond what you’ve seen from us other than to say this is completely false," a company spokesperson told Bustle on Monday. "Starbucks is not sponsoring any such event."
4chan is an internet forum that is well-known for being a hotbed for regular internet trolls and white nationalists alike. The idea for the scam allegedly came from an anonymous user on 4chan's /pol/ message board who wrote in a post on Aug. 2: "How about we meme “Undocumented Immigrant Day” at Starbucks into existence? Announce free coffee for all illegals on a certain date. August 11? 11 looks like II (for Illegal Immigrant). I’m open to suggestions there. Name a liberal place for all illegals to go at once and demand free stuff. Thoughts?"
"And then call ICE?" another anonymous user replied, "I like it. Could cripple their business a bit."
Users then created fake posters, designed to go viral, and shared them on Twitter.
Despite the less-than-professional formatting — one poster, for example, misspelled Frappuccino as "Frappacino" — the hoax spread quickly.
Can't wait until August 11! I feel happy for America's "illegal" citizens! #borderfreecoffee— Claire Walker (@Clairewlkrcutie) August 3, 2017
Starbucks' official Twitter account was quick to respond directly to the false rumors, telling users that the event was fake, and urged them to stop spreading false information.
This is completely false. Starbucks is not sponsoring any such event. Please do not spread misinformation.— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) August 4, 2017
We're sorry but you have been misinformed. Starbucks is sponsoring no such event. Please do not spread misinformation.— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) August 4, 2017
The hoax was thankfully debunked fairly quickly, and currently most of the tweets under the hashtag #BorderFreeCoffee are warnings against the hateful prank.
This fake promotion reflects a national shift in the conversation surrounding immigration. On many occasions, President Trump has spoken out strongly in support of curbing the level of immigration (legal and otherwise). In addition to his proposed border wall with Mexico, he has backed a skills-based immigration system that would rank potential immigrants based on their ability to work in the U.S.
He has also pushed to detain more undocumented immigrants. According to the New York Times, "From Jan. 22 to April 29, ICE officers arrested 41,318 people, at a rate of more than 400 people per day, compared with 30,028 over roughly the same period in 2016, the data showed."
As concerning as this hoax is, it's a valuable reminder in the era of "fake news" to exercise caution on the internet by double-checking facts and making sure only to spread information from trusted sources. The trolls will troll no matter what, but we don't have to make their jobs any easier.