WASHINGTON — Top officials in the agency overseeing border security condemned a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents that featured jokes about migrant deaths, obscene images of Hispanic lawmakers and threats to members of Congress as the lawmakers themselves Tuesday amplified their criticism of the agency.
Carla Provost, chief of the Border Patrol, sent an email to her agents describing the posts in the group as “highly inappropriate and offensive.” The Customs and Border Protection agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility and the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general began an independent investigation into the posts, Provost said.
She said any agents identified as writing the posts would be held accountable. ProPublica reported the existence of the secret Facebook group just as Democratic lawmakers toured Border Patrol facilities in Clint and El Paso, Texas, on Monday.
In a series of tweets Tuesday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who was a target of some of posts in the group, described Customs and Border Protection as a “rogue agency.”
She also pointed the finger at members of Congress who signed off on the Senate’s $4.6 billion humanitarian aid package for the border. Ocasio-Cortez and other more liberal Democrats wanted the bill to include stronger protections for migrant children.
Under a House bill, facilities that housed unaccompanied children would have had a slightly shorter time frame — 12 months instead of 14 — to meet existing legal standards for healthy, sanitary and humane conditions than under the measure President Donald Trump signed into law. They also would have had to allow oversight visits from members of Congress without warning, and the Department of Health and Human Services would have had to report a child’s death in its custody to Congress within 24 hours.
At a news conference after the tour Monday, the lawmakers detailed horrid conditions for the migrants, including in a Border Patrol facility in Clint that has become the subject of public backlash in recent weeks after a team of lawyers who spoke to migrants at the facility reported that children had gone unfed and unwashed while detained.
Last week the acting secretary of Homeland Security described allegations that children in the Clint facility had gone unfed and unwashed as “unsubstantiated” and the facility itself as “clean and well managed.”