Border Patrol Says It Will Investigate Agents’ Abusive Facebook Posts

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, is escorted back to her vehicle after she speaks at the Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, about what she saw at area border facilities Monday. (Briana Sanchez/El Paso Times via AP)

(CN) – U.S. Border Patrol officials Monday denounced offensive posts targeting lawmakers and immigrants in a private Facebook group for agents, saying that the discussions and images, including one that depicts President Donald Trump forcing Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s head toward his lap, are not representative of the agency’s employees. 

Investigative news site ProPublica exposed the Facebook group Monday, reporting that it billed itself as a forum for “‘funny’ and ‘serious’” discussion about work with the patrol.” 

The group is called “I’m 10-15” and has roughly 9,500 members, according to ProPublica, which reported that it was able to link some of the online chats to Facebook profiles of Border Patrol agents. 

It is unclear how many of the group’s members are current or former agents. 

One chat thread questions the validity of an image, taken by an Associated Press photographer, of a migrant father and his toddler, drowned on the bank of the Rio Grande. The commenter suggests the photo was edited because the bodies – referred to by the commenter as “floaters” – were too clean.  

“We’ve all seen the dems and liberal parties do some pretty sick things,” the commenter wrote.

Another post refers to Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, and Representative Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, as “hoes,” and one commenter suggests that agents throw a “burrito at one of these bitches.” Both representatives joined several other members of Congress on a tour of border facilities in Texas Monday, where attorneys said they had found immigrant children living in unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

The members of Congress were in Texas the same day that Trump signed a nearly $4.6 billion aid package to give federal agencies more resources to take care of the thousands of immigrants that are seeking to enter the U.S. through the southern border.  

At a press conference Monday, Ocasio-Cortez said that what the tour group saw in the detention facilities was “unconscionable.” 

Representative Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said that “it was clear the water was not running,” in one of the facilities he toured and that a woman he met with said an agent told her to drink from the toilet. 

“No child should ever be separated from their parent,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “No child should ever be taken from their family. No woman should ever be locked up in a pen when they have done no harm to another human being. They should be given water, they should be given access to basic human rights.”

The representative told the Associated Press that she was not surprised by the disturbing Facebook posts. 

“It’s just indicative of the violent culture that we saw,” she said. 

Castro said Congress would likely launch an investigation into the Facebook posts, and Border Patrol officials said Monday that the agency’s internal affairs office and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General are investigating the posts.

“These posts are completely inappropriate and contrary to the honor and integrity I see – and expect – from our agents day in and day out,” Border Patrol chief Carla Provost said in a statement. “Any employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable.”

Agents are expected to adhere to a code of conduct which states that “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,” including comments on private social media websites. 

Border Patrol chief of operations Brian Hastings said in an interview with CNN’s Brook Baldwin Monday that “appropriate action” would be taken if the investigations reveal agents involved the disturbing chats. 

“We’re dealing with a crisis right now, over 680,000 apprehensions so far this year,” Hastings said in the interview. “Agents are under a great deal of stress but with that I would remind the public of how many rescues the men and women of border patrol have done and put their lives on the line to save various individuals throughout the year.” 

In a statement Monday, the Border Patrol’s union condemned the content posted by agents, but also criticized Ocasio-Cortez.  

“Whether one agrees with the politics of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Escobar, they both must be treated with dignity and respect,” the statement reads. “Similarly, when Rep. Ocasio-Cortez refers to CBP facilities as concentration camps – when neither could be further from the truth – she does nothing to improve the political discourse.”

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