POLITICS

House Oversight Committee Presses Probe Of Secret Border Official Facebook Groups

Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wants the names of Customs and Border Protection employees in the groups and any disciplinary records.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) requested more than two years worth of information for an investigation into secret Facebook groups for border officials that featured racist and xenophobic posts.

Cummings wants all posts, membership information, employment status of group members and any communication related to Facebook groups named “I’m 10-15,” “The Real CBP Nation,” and any similar groups dating back to Jan. 20, 2017. The committee also is seeking records of any disciplinary action against employees in the Facebook group, and any CBP guidelines on social media use. 

“The Committee is concerned that Border Patrol agents and other [Customs and Border Protection] employees who wrote posts disparaging immigrants may still be working with immigrants and children,” Cummings wrote in a letter to Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of CBP.

Members of the secret Facebook group made racist and derogatory posts about migrants and Latino members of Congress, ProPublica reported in July. Group members questioned the legitimacy of migrant deaths and described Latino members of Congress in vulgar terms. In one exchange, members of the group discussed throwing burritos at lawmakers visiting migrant detention facilities in Texas. 

The Facebook group had around 9,500 members from across the country at the time of the report, including Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost. A second, smaller Facebook group featuring similar demeaning posts was uncovered a few days later. Provost, for her part, said she joined the racist Facebook group to read what her underlings thought of her.

House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., speaks to members of the media before Acting Se
House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., speaks to members of the media before Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan appears before a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 18, 2019.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan called the posts “unacceptable” during a hearing of Cummings’ Oversight Committee earlier this month.

“CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility initiated the investigation within hours of those allegations coming to light,” McAleenan said. He said several of the officers involved have been reassigned to administrative duties, but didn’t know whether some were still working in close contact with migrants. 

McAleenan said he didn’t think it wasn’t fair to say the Facebook posts reflect the sentiments of all Border Patrol agents or even other group members. 

“We do not have a dehumanizing culture at CBP,” he said. “This is an agency that rescues 4,000 people a year. It’s absolutely committed to the well-being of everyone that they interact with.”

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