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DHS chief Kevin McAleenan orders probe into report of 'disturbing' Facebook posts by border patrol agents

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slammed U.S. CBP after a report of a secret Facebook group that made fun of dead migrants.
USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – The head of the Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday he directed an immediate investigation into “disturbing” and “inexcusable” social-media posts allegedly from Border Patrol personnel.

Kevin McAleenan, the acting secretary of the department, tweeted that the statements reported by the online news organization ProPublica “are completely unacceptable.” As the head of the Border Patrol had said earlier, any employee found to have posted unacceptable messages “will be held accountable,” McAleenan said.

“They do not represent the men and women of the Border Patrol or” the department, McAleenan said.

According to the ProPublica report, roughly 9,500 current and former Border Patrol agents are part of a secret Facebook group called “I’m 10-15,” a reference to the Border Patrol code for “aliens in custody.” The postings ridiculed migrant deaths and Democratic members of Congress.

McAleenan’s pledge to investigate came after the House Oversight and Reform Committee announced Tuesday a hearing July 12 to question the DHS secretary and Mark Morgan, acting commission of Customs and Border Protection, about conditions at border detention facilities. The department’s inspector general reported Tuesday that conditions were dangerously overcrowded at CBP facilities in the Rio Grande Valley.

“The Trump Administration’s actions at the southern border are grotesque and dehumanizing,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who is chairman of the committee.  “There seems to be open contempt for the rule of law and for basic human decency.  The committee needs to hear directly from the heads of these agencies as soon as possible in light of the almost daily reports of abuse and defiance.”

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., also said the workers responsible for “vile comments” shouldn’t work for the federal government.

“This Facebook group is beyond sexist and racist – it is truly abhorrent and shameful, and there is no excuse for this depraved behavior,” Thompson said. “The chaos within DHS needs to end and proper leadership needs to be put in place.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called for Morgan’s ouster, saying the inspector general’s report and the Facebook postings “paint a picture of a toxic culture at U.S. Customs and Border Protection that can only begin to be changed by immediately firing and replacing top leadership at the agency.”

“The horrid conditions CBP has subjected children and families to at the border are nothing short of inhumane and downright inexcusable,” Schumer said.

On Monday in the Oval Office, President Donald Trump sidestepped a question about the Facebook group, saying he did not know what members of the group were saying about members of Congress. But the president said that “the Border Patrol is not happy with the Democrats in Congress.”

“The Border Patrol, they’re patriots,” he said. “They’re great people.”

Postings to the Facebook group commented on a visit Monday that Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas Monday made to migrant detention centers. Members of the group discussed creating a GoFundMe fundraising account for whoever would throw burritos at the two Latina congresswomen, according to ProPublica.

“This isn’t about ‘a few bad eggs,'” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “This is a violent culture.”

Carla Provost, the chief of Border Patrol, issued a statement Monday that called the postings “highly inappropriate and offensive.” The statements “of these few individuals” could undermine public trust in the Border Patrol, she said.

CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility launched an investigation, in consultation with the department’s inspector general, Provost said.

CBP’s standards of conduct state: “Employees will not make abusive, derisive, profane, or harassing statements or gestures, or engage in any other conduct evidencing hatred or invidious prejudice to or about one person or group on account of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age or disability.”

More about the Border Patrol:

AOC criticizes CBP after report of secret Facebook group as agency opens investigation

Government watchdog photos show dangerous conditions at Border Patrol sites for migrants

‘Children come first’: House passes $4.6 billion in aid for migrants at border after Pelosi caves to Republicans

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In a video obtained by The Associated Press, a young girl who spent 12 days locked in a Texas border station where hundreds of other migrant children have been detained this year describes to her attorney how she was treated. (July 1)
AP, AP

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