The Customs and Border Protection Agency is investigating a private Facebook Group of border officers after posts were made mocking migrant deaths and making sexually explicit remarks about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. CBP immediately informed the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Inspector General after the posts were revealed in a report by ProPublica.
Some 9,500 current and former border agents are members of the Facebook group, which was created in August 2016. It's called "I'm 10-15," which is Border Patrol code for "aliens in custody." The site describes itself as a place for "funny" and "serious" conversation about working with CBP.
Newsy isn't sharing ProPublica's images from the Facebook group due to the graphic nature of the posts. But, we are sharing the general context of the posts to give our viewers an understanding of what appeared on the site.
A screenshot of one of the posts, received by ProPublica, shows Reps. Ocasio-Cortez and Veronica Escobar who were scheduled to visit a Texas detention facility on Monday. The Congresswomen were there to look into alleged inhumane conditions. Comments on the Facebook site called the women "hoes" and suggested that officers "throw burritos at them."
In another screenshot, a post depicted Rep. Ocasio-Cortez in a photo-shopped image performing a sexual act while being prompted by President Donald Trump.
And yet another screenshot shows joking comments posted beneath a news photograph of the bodies of Salvadoran immigrant Oscar Martinez and his young daughter, who died trying to cross the Rio Grande. Members of the group mocked the deaths and suggested the people in the picture were "too clean" to be immigrants seeking asylum.
Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro, head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said this secret group "confirms some of the worst criticisms of Customs and Border Protection. These are clearly agents who are desensitized to the point of being dangerous to migrants and their co-workers."
In a statement responding to ProPublica's report, the CBP said it could not verify if its agents were involved in the Facebook posts. But it said agency employees are held to standards of conduct both on and off duty. Those rules state: "Employees will not make abusive, derisive, profane, or harassing statements or gestures, or engage in any other conduct evidencing hatred or invidious prejudice to or about one person or group on account of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age or disability. This includes comments and posts made on private social media sites.”
Daniel Martinez, a sociologist who studies the border, said the comments are "clearly xenophobic and sexist." He says the posts appear to reflect "a pervasive culture of cruelty aimed at immigrants within CBP. This isn't just a few rogue agents or 'bad apples.'"
Customs and Border Protection, which has nearly 20,000 agents, is drawing scrutiny over living conditions at detention facilities holding thousands of migrants from Central America. The most recent acting chief, John Sanders, resigned last week amid criticism over their treatment.
Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost said “These posts are completely inappropriate and contrary to the honor and integrity I see—and expect—from our agents day in and day out. Any employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable.”