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The agency said it was a Maltese Cross tattoo.
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.
That's right, ICE put an iron cross in their self-promoting tweet.— Abolish ICE (@QuantumTakes) June 18, 2018
Once more for those in the back:
THAT'S A NAZI TATTOO ON HIS LEFT ELBOW AND THIS IS OFFICIAL INSTITUTIONAL PROPAGANDA https://t.co/gxvsxkdbHh
Official ICE photo shows man with Nazi Iron Cross tattoo on his elbow. Excuse me?! This is not ok. https://t.co/7rilUP862k— Anita Smithson (@anitalynns) June 18, 2018
Putting out a tweet featuring someone with a Nazi iron cross tattoo was a deliberate choice by ICE.— votey mcvoteface ⛵ (@soapachu) June 18, 2018
When people show you who they are; believe them. https://t.co/41Ex3Lph4q
That tattoo on his elbow is a nazi cross. This tweet has been up since May, there’s no way they don’t realize this. ICE is openly advertising that their members are Nazis. https://t.co/FPxzGM1e8M— abby (@aby_brr) June 18, 2018
If you somehow still think they’re not Nazis, the guy in this official ICE photo has a prominent Nazi tattoo, the iron cross on his elbow. pic.twitter.com/GDkTYptHbZ— Joe Friedl (@joefriedl) June 18, 2018
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.
Andrew Wyrich is a politics staff writer for the Daily Dot, covering the intersection of politics and the internet. Andrew has written for USA Today, NorthJersey.com, and other newspapers and websites. His work has been recognized by the Society of the Silurians, Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).