Acting Department of Homeland Secretary Kevin McAleenan has ordered an immediate investigation into offensive posts “that allegedly includes active Border Patrol personnel,” he said in a series of tweets Wednesday.
“I have directed an immediate investigation, and as the @USBPChief has made clear, any employee found to have compromised the public’s trust in our law enforcement mission will be held accountable,” McAleenan said. “They do not represent the men and women of the Border Patrol or @DHSgov.”
Earlier this week, a report revealed a closed Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents that reportedly features jokes about migrant deaths, derogatory comments about Latina lawmakers and a lewd meme involving at least one of them.
In an interview with CNN, a Border Patrol agent, who said he’s had enough and agreed to go on camera only if his identity was obscured, said being derogatory is part of the CBP culture.
“He was making fun of them,” said the agent, referring to a supervisor joking about dead migrants.
“That, what difference does it make? It’s just another life. He made a comment also regarding running over illegals and I’m like, ‘You cannot run over people.’”
The report by the investigative reporting group ProPublica came against the backdrop of lawmakers’ visit to Texas border facilities. The delegation decried conditions at the facilities, which have come under scrutiny amid the ongoing influx of migrant arrivals at the southern border.
On Tuesday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings announced that the committee invited McAleenan and incoming acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan to testify on the posts and conditions at facilities next week.
A day after the lawmakers’ visit, a DHS inspector general released a report that found extreme overcrowding and children younger than 7 being held in custody for more than two weeks – far longer than the allowed 72 hours.
McAleenan is among DHS officials who have warned of worsening conditions at the border, though his tweet Wednesday focused specifically on the recently revealed Facebook group.
CBP said this week it’s investigating “disturbing social media activity.” The posts were “hosted on a private Facebook group that may include a number of CBP employees,” according to Matthew Klein, assistant commissioner of CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
The existence of the group “I’m 10-15” was exposed by the investigative reporting group ProPublica. CNN has not been able to independently access and review the Facebook group posts in question.
It is not clear how many group members are or were affiliated with the Border Patrol.
“We take all the posts that were put out today very seriously. These do not represent the thoughts of the men and women of the US Border Patrol. Each one of these allegations will be thoroughly investigated,” said US Border Patrol Chief of Operations Brian Hastings in an interview on “Newsroom” with CNN’s Brooke Baldwin on Monday.
The posts were turned over to the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General, as well as CBP’s internal affairs office to begin the investigations, added Hastings.
ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization that produces investigative journalism, reported that the Facebook group’s page boasts 9,500 members and says it was formed in 2016. It is unclear from the reporting how many members claim to be active agents. Posts feature comments about the death of a teen Guatemalan migrant in Weslaco, TX such as “oh well” and “if he dies he dies.”
A statement from US 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.”
CNN’s Nick Valencia, Geneva Sands, and Matthew Hilk contributed to this report.