In 2018, a senior Customs and Border Protection official warned all agency employees of potential discipline after having been informed of a private Facebook group with inappropriate and offensive posts, according to a memo obtained by CNN.
“Recently the Agency was made aware of a private Facebook group page that only a specific group of CBP employees could access, on which inappropriate and offensive posts were made,” wrote Matthew Klein, assistant commissioner of CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility,
The memo, dated February 2018 and titled, “Social Media Posts,” reminded employees of CBP’s standards of conduct, anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies for workplace and off-duty employees that prohibits certain conduct on the grounds of discrimination or harassment.
“The bottom line is the Agency may bring discipline against an employee who posts offensive messages on a social media page where there is a nexus to the Agency workplace,” reads the memo.
The discovery of the memo comes amid an investigation into 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. The Facebook group was publicly reported on this week and Klein called it “disturbing social media activity.”
The posts were “hosted on a private Facebook group that may include a number of CBP employees,” said Klein in a statement Monday.
The existence of the group “I’m 10-15” was exposed by the investigative reporting group ProPublica earlier this week.
It is unclear if the 2018 memo is referring to “I’m 10-15” or a different Facebook group, or what the specific impetus was for issuing a notice to the workforce at that time.
When asked about the memo to the workforce, a CBP spokesperson Michael Friel told CNN, “With the rise of online social activity by employees, the agency provided guidance related to how agents should conduct themselves on and off duty.”
Politico reported on Tuesday that US Border Patrol leadership knew, as far back as 2016, about images that show agents engaging in conduct that includes simulating sex acts and taking selfies while defecating.
In response to the Politico story, Friel told CNN that “posts of concern were sent to CBP leadership at the time and those posts were then referred to the Office of Professional Responsibility for further investigation and the investigation was done and completed.”
Additional information on the investigation could not be provided because of employee privacy concerns.
Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan reaffirmed the 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, lawmakers visited Texas border facilities after reports of poor living conditions surfaced. The delegation decried conditions at the facilities, which have come under increasing scrutiny amid the ongoing influx of migrant arrivals at the southern border.
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.