The Homeland Security Department has condemned derogatory comments posted within the group and promised a review of its own.
A top lawmaker with oversight of the Homeland Security Department is calling for a third-party investigation into reports that employees posted racist and other offensive messages on social media relating to immigrants and members of Congress.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, requested the DHS inspector general investigate the “I’m 10-15” Facebook group, first made public by ProPublica last week. Customs and Border Protection's internal affairs unit is already probing the secret group, in which current and former Border Patrol agents discussed disrupting a congressional visit to an agency facility, made jokes about the deaths of migrants and posted disparaging images of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-N.Y., among other racist, sexist and otherwise offensive material.
Thompson called the behavior “entirely unacceptable” for government employees and said it “should be grounds for immediate dismissal from service.” He indicated an outside review was necessary because of reports that senior leadership at DHS and CBP were made aware of the group and took no actions to address it. He asked the IG to investigate what agency leaders knew about the Facebook group, when they knew and if they subsequently took any appropriate actions.
Specifically, he asked for more information on acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan, acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan and Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost. Politico has reported Morgan was made directly aware of the Facebook group, which Thompson said would call into question Morgan’s “fitness to hold any office in the U.S. government.” McAleenan and Provost have condemned the group’s activity.
“This information demands an immediate investigation,” Thompson said.
The National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents border agents, has also condemned the group.
“The content found in this group…is not representative of our employees and does a great disservice to all Border Patrol agents, the overwhelming majority of whom perform their duties honorably,” said the union, which is part of the American Federation of Government Employees, in a statement.
The labor group said that while one agent posting inappropriate content is unacceptable, the users on the Facebook page represented only a “small minority” of Border Patrol agents. The council called it “unfortunate and embarrassing” to have the reputation of its members tarnished by a small group. It also criticized Ocasio-Cortez and other lawmakers for referring to CBP detention facilities as concentration camps.
The Facebook group had about 9,500 members. The Border Patrol employs about 20,000 agents.
The inspector general’s office did not respond to an inquiry into Thompson’s request for an investigation.