Committee accuses Customs and Border Protection of "stonewalling" after reports it bypassed punishment for most employees involved.
Following reports that Customs and Border Protection failed to issue significant discipline for employees who participated in a Facebook group that spread racist and xenophobic messages, House Democrats are demanding more information from the Homeland Security Department.
To date, the House Oversight and Reform Committee said, CBP has not provided any information about the punishments meted out to any of the employees involved. CBP launched an internal investigation after ProPublica last year exposed the group “I’m 10-15,” 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.
Since July, the committee, then under the chairmanship of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and now led by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., has exchanged numerous letters and requests for documents and interviews related to the Facebook group and subsequent investigation by CBP’s internal affairs. CBP has declined to produce any information or make anyone available for an interview, Maloney said in her latest letter. She is now threatening to issue a subpoena if the agency continues to reject her requests.
“You have provided no legitimate reason for withholding these documents and interviews, and your actions are obstructing the committee’s investigation,” Maloney said, adding that a failure to comply by March 3 will force the committee to “consider compulsory process.”
The Washington Examiner reported last month that CBP had fired just three of the Border Patrol agents involved with the group, ignoring the internal review board’s recommendation to dismiss several others. CBP previously revealed at least 62 current employees were members of the Facebook group. The agency converted many of the recommended 30-day suspensions without pay into letters of reprimand, the Examiner found.
Last month, staffers in the office of Mark Morgan, the senior official performing the duties of CBP commissioner, told oversight committee staff it had gathered documents related to the investigation but would not say if it would release them.
“To date, CBP has not produced any information regarding a single employee who was involved in the secret Facebook groups and has not made a single witness available for a transcribed interview,” Maloney said. “This stonewalling is unacceptable.”
She noted that Rodney Scott, the incoming Border Patrol chief, was reportedly a member of the Facebook group. The committee is also seeking information related to his participation. His predecessor, Carla Provost, was also a member of the group, though she has told lawmakers she only joined it to monitor employees and what they were saying about her. Democrats have previously questioned Morgan’s fitness to lead CBP due to his prior awareness of the group.
The National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents border agents, has condemned the group, saying it only represents a “small minority” of its members.
CBP did not immediately respond to questions on whether it would comply with the committee’s new demands.
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