Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Activists rally against the Trump administration's immigration policies outside the New York City offices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), July 26, 2018. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Report: ICE Spied on Anti-Trump Activists in NYC

"ICE is surveilling our communities based on not only the fact that they are speaking out, but who they are speaking out against."

Eoin Higgins

An explosive report from The Nation magazine Wednesday morning showed the federal government spied on progressive activists in New York City. 

Emails from February, July, and August 2018 between agents in the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) wing of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) obtained by reporter Jimmy Tobias show a surveillance operation targeted at protests against President Donald Trump's administration and immigration policies in the city.

Tobias points to three actions in particular that were singled out by HSI:  a February 14, 2018, Ash Wednesday protest by immigrant rights group the New Sanctuary Coalition; a protest outside ICE's Manhattan offices dubbed the Deportee Suitcase Solidarity March on July 26, 2018; and a July 31, 2018, protest against white supremacist group Identity Evropa organized by Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.). 

The latter was included in a list of events sent to agents entitled "Anti-Trump Protest Spreadsheet." 

"Please remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings," the email said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for ICE told The Nation that while the agency would not comment specifically on the spreadsheet's methodology, it did feel that agents needed to know about the protests for operations. 

"The referenced email was provided to HSI agents for situational awareness should any HSI employees be traveling through those areas," the spokesperson said, "whether on work or personal time."

Progressives targeted by the list were skeptical of ICE's explanations and concerned about the implications of spying on activists.

"How is a list like this compiled? Who makes the distinction that one group makes the cut and another one doesn't? Is it just a whim? It seems to me to be very dangerous," Ken Kidd, an organizer with Gays Against Guns, told The Nation. "It is a terrible precedent."

Some activists were outraged that the surveillance was being done in the first place, especially given the reasoning provided in the emails. 

"If they are watching us because we are against the current president's policies," said Jody Kuh, an organizer with anti-Trump organization Rise and Resist, which was targeted in the emails, "it is more than a little disturbing."

 "I demand answers," Rep. Espaillat said in a tweet in response to The Nation's reporting. 

New York University law professor Alina Das, who is a lawyer for the New Sanctuary Coalition, told The Nation that ICE targeting communities for protesting the president sets a dangerous precedent. 

"ICE is surveilling our communities based on not only the fact that they are speaking out," said Das, "but who they are speaking out against."

That's the beginning of a slippery slope to the kind of crackdown on speech the country should avoid, Das added.

"The fact that we have an agency as powerful as ICE targeting our communities because they have chosen to speak out against President Trump and his harsh immigration policies should disturb every American who believes this kind of dissent is critical for protecting our democracy," Das said. 


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

UN Chief Urges Global Solidarity on Covid, Climate, and Debt Relief

"The last two years have demonstrated a simple but brutal truth, if we leave anyone behind, in the end, we leave everyone behind," said the secretary-general at the opening of the virtual Davos summit.

Jessica Corbett ·


Sinema's MLK Day Tweet Sparks Online Fury

One group criticized the Democratic senator from Arizona as "the white moderate MLK warned us about."

Andrea Germanos ·


Why Did Democratic AG Kill Flint Water RICO Case?

"Political corruption poisoned Flint and political corruption shielded the wrongdoers from accountability," said one critic following new revelations.

Kenny Stancil ·


Progressives Counter Cherry-Picked Quotes With MLK's True Legacy

Calling out those who have "weaponized" his words "to justify legislated white supremacy," Rep. Ayanna Pressley said King "was a radical dreamer with a bold vision for revolutionary change."

Jessica Corbett ·


'No Celebration Without Legislation': King Family Leads Voting Rights March

"I will not accept empty promises in pursuit of my father's dream," said Martin Luther King III.

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo