The director of the San Francisco field office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, David Jennings, has apologized after being called out by the San Francisco Chronicle for sharing an anti–Muslim “joke” on the social media employment site LinkedIn.
According to the newspaper, Jennings posted an image of three black umbrellas meant to mock Muslim women wearing burqas. The photo was captioned: “I spent 30 minutes talking to them to learn more about their culture until the barman told me they were umbrellas.” Jennings added, “I was trying to use lessons learned from my terrorism mentor Brig Barker. Guess I need more work.”
The image was among a batch of bigoted and misogynist memes shared on social media last year by U.K. Independence Party Parliamentary candidate Tony Pycroft, a big fan of U.S. President Donald Trump. Pycroft and his party were criticized at the time by the British press for the social media posts.
Jennings, however, who describes himself as a “30–year veteran of military and federal law enforcement operations” and who supervises more than 300 ICE employees and 1,000 detainees, claims he wasn’t spreading insensitive anti–Muslim material, but rather making fun of himself.
According to the Chronicle:
Jennings said in a statement that it was “directed to a former co-worker and instructor in Arab culture and was meant to poke fun at myself and use me as an example to show that everyone can and should keep learning about people from different cultures, including people like me with extensive experience working with different cultures and traditions.”
“I am horrified that the post would be taken as anything other than a dig at myself, but upon further reflection, I understand how it could be interpreted otherwise and am truly sorry,” he said. “It was not my intention to offend anyone and I hope that the explanation of my intent assuages any hurt the post may have inadvertently caused.”
Zahra Billoo, from the Council on American–Islamic Relations Bay Area, told the newspaper that the incident reflects the “offensive and often dangerous language” that has now become the norm since Trump took office and attempted to implement a nationwide Muslim ban.
According to a recent report by the nonprofit organization South Asian Americans Leading Together, the 2016 election campaign cycle saw hate violence in the U.S. return to similar levels as the year following the 9/11 attacks. In 2016, the number of hate crimes rose for the second straight year, to 6,121, according to voluntary reporting by law enforcement agencies.
In addition to a targeted anti–Muslim campaign, the Trump administration also has embarked on a Gestapo–style immigration crackdown from coast to coast, with ICE as the lead agency enforcing the anti–immigrant crackdown. That effort has split apart families and been noteworthy for its astounding cruelty.
Dalia Mogahed, research director for the Washington, DC–based Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, told the Chronicle that Jennings’ post portrays “Muslims as a strange, almost alien species, dehumanized to the point of being mistaken for inanimate objects.”
In other words, par for the course for ICE in the era of Trump.