ICE agents have been tracking protests in New York City—including demonstrations against white supremacy—through an "Anti-Trump Protest" spreadsheet, according to internal documents published by The Nation on Monday.
The outlet reports that agency's investigative arm, Homeland Security Investigations [HSI], has been keeping tabs on a variety of left-leaning events in Manhattan and Brooklyn, ranging from protests against deportations, the NRA, and neo-Nazis. The tracking was revealed in an email sent by HSI, obtained by the magazine via a public records request, which contained a four-page "Anti-Trump Protest Spreadsheet 07/31/2018," detailing the time, location, organizers and descriptions of 17 such events happening over a 17-day period last summer.
None of the events have any apparent connection to the HSI's focus on "cross-border criminal activity." The sole right-wing action included in the spreadsheet is a pro-ICE event organized by the Jewish Defense League (the local offshoot of a virulently anti-Arab terrorist organization), though that is labeled a "counter-protest."
In one case, a protest organized in response to members of the neo-Nazi group Identity Evropa unfurling an "END IMMIGRATION" banner at Fort Tryon park was deemed an "Anti-Trump" action worthy of ICE attention. That counter-protest was organized by Congressman Adriano Espaillat, and billed as community vigil meant to show "there is zero tolerance for racism in our country."
Speaking to The Nation, Rep. Espaillat said he was "totally shocked" by the existence of the spreadsheet, adding that he "would like to find out why our event was on that list, and whether it was surveilled or infiltrated, and why the racist, anti-Semitic group was not on the list."
Other activists, meanwhile, were less taken back by the internal communications. "It's distressing to have it actually confirmed, but it's not surprising," Ravi Ragbir, a leading immigrant activist with the New Sanctuary Coalition, told Gothamist. The coalition was mentioned in the database, and in subsequent email exchanges also obtained by The Nation. One shows ICE leaders apparently joking about an anti-deportation Ash Wednesday event put on by the group.
Passing along the protest info to an Assistant Field Office Director Of ICE, the agency's Deputy Field Office Director in New York wrote, "Let me know if you are going to get ashes today, let's go across the street before the meeting if you're interested." That email was dubbed "confidential" and of "high importance," as was a separate correspondence about a New Sanctuary Coalition rally intended to "shine a light on the deportation machine."
According to Ragbir, the agency's monitoring of the coalition's events fits within a larger pattern of ICE agents attempting to target the most vocal immigrant leaders. "It's a deliberate tactic," he said. "We know ICE has been following leaders and people organizing these protests, like myself and Claudio Rojas."
Rojas, who is an undocumented immigrant and the star of a film exposing the conditions at a for-profit immigration detention center, was apprehended earlier this week. Ragbir, as well as other leaders of the New Sanctuary Coalition, have been repeatedly targeted and arrested by ICE since the election of President Trump.
"We believe they're tracking us beyond this [spreadsheet]," added Ragbir. "They're doing the administration's dirty work, because the president does not believe in free speech for everyone."
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for ICE, Rachel Yong Yow, told Gothamist that "Homeland Security Investigations special agents are regularly conducting field investigations in the New York city area. The referenced email was provided to HSI agents for situational awareness."
The spokesperson added that ICE "fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference." She would not comment on the record about the purpose of tracking "Anti-Trump" protests specifically, or whether the agency continues to maintain such a spreadsheet.