U.S. Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost earlier this month criticized comments by agents who were members of a secretive Facebook group that derided immigrants and posted sexist memes. Now, The Intercept is reporting that Provost was also a member of the group.
The report published Friday triggered calls by some Democratic lawmakers for Provost’s resignation.
Provost posted on the site as recently as three months after her appointment as chief last August, according to The Intercept. Her message appeared to be innocuous and wasn’t linked to the racist and vulgar attacks on immigrants and on lawmakers who advocate for migrants that appear in other posts in the group.
After offensive posts from the Facebook group were exposed in a ProPublica article, Provost issued a statement calling the messages “completely inappropriate,” and an investigation was launched, according to a statement from Customs and Border Protection, which oversees Border Patrol.
“Any employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable,” Provost said.
Members of the Facebook group known as “I’m 10-15” joked about immigrant deaths and attacked lawmakers who defend immigrant rights. After the death of a teenager in detention, one agent posted the comment: “Oh well.” Another post included a meme showing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) engaging in oral sex with a detained immigrant. The number 10-15 is Border Patrol code for “aliens in custody.”
A screenshot by The Intercept of Provost’s reported post shows what appears to be a jocular clapback against a group member who questioned her rise to the top. But it indicates she was aware of the group and participated in it months before she condemned it in an apparently shocked statement to the media. She has since left the Facebook group, according to The Intercept. Hundreds of posts were archived by The Intercept before the Facebook group purged content and changed its name after the ProPublica article.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) called for an investigation earlier this month to determine whether Provost — or acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan — knew about the Facebook group before it was exposed in the media, and if so, whether they did anything about it.
“This is why I have requested a full investigation into this matter,” Thompson later told The Intercept in a statement. “We need to know who in CBP leadership knew about these deplorable groups, when did they find out, and what action they took — if anything.”
CBP did not immediately respond to a HuffPost request for comment. But, when asked by The Intercept, a spokesman did “not dispute” that Provost and other senior agents had commented in the Facebook group. CBP issued a statement to The Intercept saying that its Office of Professional Responsibility is “investigating the material provided to CBP this week from multiple sources.”
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called Friday for Provost and other officials who knew about the group to resign. “This Facebook group is a disturbing look into the toxic culture of abuse, racism, and extremism among border patrol agents and leadership, and the border patrol chief Carla Provost was a member,” he tweeted.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) also urged Provost to “do the right thing and resign” if the report is true.