Immigration crisis at the US border
US Customs and Border Protection officials say they are investigating "disturbing social media activity" after a published report of 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 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," US Border Patrol Chief of Operations Brian Hastings told CNN on Monday.
Read more about this report here.
Major protests are scheduled across the country to demand the closure of detention facilities holding migrant children and families.
Here are the key developments in the border crisis leading up to today's protests:
- What lawmakers are saying: A congressional delegation on Monday visited some of the facilities and reported migrants being held in inhumane conditions, including being forced to drink water from a toilet bowl — a charge US Border Patrol Chief of Operations Brian Hastings called "completely untrue." In addition to the lawmakers' Monday visits, presidential candidates, reporters and a team of doctors and lawyers involved in a federal lawsuit have recently visited facilities and returned with allegations of unsanitary conditions, children going hungry, a shortage of clothing and mattresses, and sick people being denied medicine and health care.
- Lawsuit claims children are being held in "cages": Dozens of sworn affidavits submitted as part of the federal lawsuit detail children's accounts of being separated from their parents or guardians and held in cramped cells they describe as cages. Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier, a pediatrician who interviewed 39 children, submitted a court declaration likening the conditions in the detention centers to those in "torture facilities."
- What the US Customs and Border Protection wants: CBP said last month it takes the allegations seriously and that the migrants have been getting medical care and three meals a day. The agency conceded that its short-term holding facilities were not designed to hold "vulnerable populations" and said it urgently needed "additional humanitarian funding to manage the crisis."
- Border funding bill: President Trump on Monday signed a bill to send $4.6 billion in emergency funding to the border.
Democratic Rep. Norma Torres from California gave an emotional plea after visiting a border facility.
“If you’re a parent or a grandparent out there I would say ‘look at your child and go hug your child’ because you would not want a law enforcement agent to treat your child the way we see those kids being treated," Torres said on CNN.
She also said she felt unsafe and worried about her staff who waited outside.
“When we walked inside the facility there were CBP agents that were taking photos, selfies, photos with us in the background. None of us had a cellphone to be able to record these actions by these agents, but imagine, this is what they are doing to members of congress in front of their leadership so you can imagine what happens behind closed doors within these ICE cells to children as young as 2 years old," she said.
Watch the full interview:
Democratic members of Congress are speaking out about the growing humanitarian crisis at the southern border after touring two facilities in Texas on Monday.
They visited the facilities after reports of deteriorating and unsanitary conditions.
The same day, investigative reporting group ProPublica came out with a story that uncovered a closed Facebook group where current and former Border Patrol agents reportedly share jokes about migrant deaths, derogatory comments about Latina lawmakers and a lewd memes.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was one of the Democratic lawmakers who toured a facility Monday.
She claimed she saw migrants drinking out of toilets, which a Border Patrol official flatly denied, and that she felt unsafe during the visit.
"People (are) drinking out of toilets, officers laughing in front of members Congress," Ocasio-Cortez said in a series of tweets.
But Ocasio-Cortez isn't the only one speaking out after the tours.
In an interview with CNN, Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán expressed frustration about not getting sufficient answers from officials. "We're not getting any answers on some of the programming, like (Migrant Protection Protocols)," she said.
Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania tweeted "conditions are far worse than we ever could have imagined" and that "this is a human rights crisis." She also tweeted that she saw women sleeping in concrete cells with no running water.
The border bill: Last week, the House passed a $4.6 billion Senate bill that will send emergency funding to the border. The vote triggered a strong reaction from progressives who objected to the legislation — including Ocasio-Cortez.
Advocacy group MoveOn, which is uniting the protests under the #closethecamps hashtag, is encouraging protesters to gather outside the offices of various US senators and representatives to demand they close the detention facilities, withhold funds for detaining and deporting migrants, and "bear witness and reunite families," a news release says.
Major protests are scheduled for New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington and San Francisco. MoveOn says there are 185 "mobilizations" planned, including in smaller cities such as Kalispell, Montana; Viroqua, Wisconsin; and Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
Why this matters: The protests come a day after a congressional delegation visited some of the facilities and reported migrants being held in inhumane conditions, including being forced to drink water from a toilet bowl — a charge US Border Patrol Chief of Operations Brian Hastings called "completely untrue."