The US government is tracking immigration journalists and Trump protestors

Protesters in Washington DC on June 30.
Protesters in Washington DC on June 30.
Image: Reuters/Joshua Roberts
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The US government is systematically identifying and monitoring journalists who cover immigration, civil rights attorneys, and protestors who demonstrate against president Donald Trump, according to two new reports.

Dozens of reporters, immigration lawyers, and activists, particularly those covering the US’s controversial treatment of asylum-seekers near San Diego or representing refugees there, were tracked by a “secret database” accessible to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies and the FBI, according to an NBC San Diego report sourced from documents leaked by a Homeland Security official. In some cases, their passports were flagged, and they were interrogated by US officials.

The documents, dated January 2019 and titled “San Diego Sector Foreign Operations Branch: Migrant Caravan FY-2019, Suspected Organizers, Coordinators, Instigators and Media” show individuals’ photos, sometimes from their passports, their date of birth, home country, and their alleged ties to the immigrant caravan. They include “ten journalists, seven of whom are U.S. citizens, a U.S. attorney, and 47 people from the U.S. and other countries, labeled as organizers, instigators or their roles ‘unknown,” NBC reports.

Customs and Border Protection told NBC that “it is protocol following these incidents to collect evidence that might be needed for future legal actions and to determine if the event was orchestrated.” The agency was apparently referring to a clash at the border wall in San Diego in November, when hundreds of migrants rushed a port of entry and were tear-gassed.

Separately, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s investigative arm created a four-page spreadsheet to track protests against Trump’s immigration policy and the National Rifle Association, according to a report in The Nation, based on documents received through a FOIA request. ICE tracked protests and participants in New York City from late July to mid-August last year, the report says, citing an email that the agency sent to agents with an attachment titled “Anti-Trump Protest Spreadsheet 07/31/2018”.

Protests in the spreadsheet include one organized by congressman Adriano Espaillat, a Democrat who represents upper Manhattan and the Bronx, against a white supremacy group, and another organized by Gays Against Guns, a march against the NRA from Central Park on August 4. The 12 protests described in the spreadsheet also include one “Counter Protest” to “Support ICE.”

The email’s message said “All, Please see below list (full spreadsheet attached) with updated protest information. Please remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings.” ICE told The Nation the email “was provided to HSI agents for situational awareness should any HSI employees be traveling through those areas, whether on work or personal time.”