The photo, which appears to have been first tweeted in late May, shows a veteran who is part of the “HERO Child-Rescue Corps,” according to the agency.
In the photo, the employee has several tattoos on his left arm, including one around his elbow that some people believed to be of an Iron Cross–a symbol used by Nazis that has become a hate symbol among white supremacists, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Official ICE photo shows man with Nazi Iron Cross tattoo on his elbow. Excuse me?! This is not ok. https://t.co/7rilUP862k— Anita (@anitalynns) June 18, 2018
Putting out a tweet featuring someone with a Nazi iron cross tattoo was a deliberate choice by ICE.— Big Soap (@soapachu) June 18, 2018
When people show you who they are; believe them. https://t.co/41Ex3Lph4q
However, on Monday, ICE pushed back against the notion, claiming that the tattoo was a Maltese cross, a symbol they say is associated with firefighters.
The agency also said the employee in the photo, Justin Gaertner, was a U.S. Marine veteran who works as a computer forensics analyst. ICE said much of the backlash to the photo came after a writer for the New Yorker tweeted about it.
“Per Gaertner, the tattoo on his left elbow is actually ‘Titan 2,’ the symbol for his platoon while he fought in Afghanistan,” ICE wrote in a statement that they tweeted. “The wring on his right arm is the Spartan Creed which is about protecting family and children. Anyone attempting to advance their personal political opinions by baselessly slandering an American hero should be issuing apologies to Mr. Gaertner and retractions.”
Tensions between Americans and various immigration-related government agencies have been high in recent weeks.
While ICE may be pushing back against accusations against their employees having Nazi tattoos, the agency (among others) has drawn scorn for separating families who are captured after crossing the border and keeping them in detention facilities.