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Homeland Security

US Homeland Security Chief Orders Probe of Agents' Offensive Facebook Posts

By Ken Bredemeier July 3, 2019

The U.S. Homeland Security chief on Wednesday ordered an immediate investigation into a report that current and former U.S. Border Patrol agents are part of a Facebook group that posts racist, sexist and violent comments about migrants and Latin American lawmakers.

Acting Homeland Security secretary Kevin McAleenan said "any employee found to have compromised the public's trust in our law enforcement mission will be held accountable."

McAleenan said those contributing to the Facebook postings "do not represent the men and women of the Border Patrol" or the Homeland Security agency.

McAleenan's investigation came two days after a ProPublica investigative report said the Facebook posts included sexually explicit images and remarks mocking migrant deaths, including the highly publicized deaths of an El Salvador man and his 23-month-old daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande while trying to cross the river that separates Mexico and the United States.

The Facebook group is called "I'm 10-15," the Border Patrol's code for "Aliens in Custody."

The furor over the Facebook postings comes at the height of political turmoil in the U.S. over several related immigration issues.

President Donald Trump is trying to curb the surge of thousands of migrants, mostly from Central America, traveling through Mexico to try to reach the United States to seek asylum and has announced his intention to soon launch raids in major U.S. cities to arrest migrants who have already been given deportation orders and send them back to their homelands.

'Appalling' conditions

Meanwhile, a report Tuesday by the Homeland Security agency's inspector general describes appalling conditions and wretched overcrowding at migrant detention centers in Texas. A top manager at one of the facilities said he fears for the security of his staff, calling the situation a "ticking time bomb."

The report included numerous pictures of people behind cages lying on bare cement floors with nothing to do, men in a room with standing room only, men and women wearing surgical masks appearing to be reaching out to the photographers for attention.

One photo shows 88 men packed inside a room designed to hold 40 with one pressing a cardboard sign reading "help" against the window.

The report says some migrants deliberately clog the toilets with socks and blankets just to get the chance to get out of the cages while the toilets are fixed.

The inspector general's report says the opportunity for personal hygiene is scarce and that many migrants became ill and constipated from the diet of bologna sandwiches that they are given.

The report called on the agency to "take immediate steps to alleviate dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults in the Rio Grande Valley."

ProPublica said the agents making the comments on Facebook reacted to the death of a 16-year-old boy who died in Border Patrol custody by saying, "Oh, well. If he dies, he dies."

They accused Democrats and liberals of possibly faking the photograph of the man and his daughter lying face down in the river, saying they have never seen "floaters" look so "clean."

Other alleged remarks included plans to throw burritos at Hispanic members of Congress and describing female members in sexist, profane language.

New York Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a favorite target of the group. One doctored photograph shows her performing a sex act on Trump.

"How on Earth can CPB's culture be trusted to care for refugees humanely?" Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in response.

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said the comments by the agents are "completely unacceptable" and is demanding answers.

Border Patrol chief Carla Provost says the Facebook posts are "completely inappropriate and contrary to the honor and integrity I see and expect from our agents day in and day out."

She also said any employees found to be a part of the group will be held accountable.

The union representing the agents has also condemned the posts and say they do a "great disservice" to the overwhelming majority of employees who do their jobs with honor.

According to the Customs and Border Protection agency, employees are forbidden from making "abusive, derisive, profane, or harassing statements, gestures" or displays of hatred based on a person's race, color, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.

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