Agency says it has taken sufficient disciplinary action, but wants to protect individuals’ privacy.
House Democrats are pushing the Trump administration to disclose more information about federal employees involved in a Facebook group that caused an uproar for posting racist, sexist and xenophobic content, accusing agency officials of failing to properly respond to a congressional subpoena.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee requested the names of four individuals Customs and Border Protection fired for their involvement in the group; CBP has declined to provide names, citing privacy concerns. CBP launched an internal investigation after ProPublica in 2019 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.
For more than a year and a half, the committee, first 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. Maloney’s new letter on Monday suggested CBP’s response to her subpoena was insufficient, as it did not disclose the names of any employees that were part of the agency’s investigation.
“CBP’s apparent position—that the Constitution includes a privilege for CBP to withhold documents from Congress merely because CBP fears public disclosure—is without any basis in law,” Maloney wrote to CBP temporary leader Mark Morgan. “The committee remains extremely concerned by the lengths to which the Trump administration is going—even in its final days—to place the interests of employees who made racist and sexually depraved posts ahead of the wellbeing of the children and families they interact with every day.”
In a November letter to Maloney, Stephanie Talton, head of CBP's congressional affairs office, said bureau officials took the allegations against CBP employees seriously, fired four workers and suspended others. Talton added CBP is expending "considerable resources" to ensure the firings stick, as the former employees have appealed the decision. She explained CBP wanted to protect the identities of Border Patrol agents who were investigated but not found to have been involved in any wrongdoing, but the agency would "reconsider" its redactions.
Maloney on Monday noted CBP has not provided any additional information to date. She set a new deadline of Jan. 22, after which time she said the oversight committee would renew the subpoena that expired with the start of the 117th Congress.
Stephanie Maline, a CBP spokeswoman, said the agency received Maloney's request and anticipated a renewed subpoena, but did not commit to meeting her demands.
"CBP has made multiple productions of documents to the committee, in response to the chairwoman’s previous requests," Malin said. "CBP continues to provide documents to the committee as cases are investigated, closed, and (if warranted) disciplinary action is determined.”
Of particular concern to the committee was the administrators of the Facebook group in question only received “letters of caution,” which do not amount to a disciplinary action and will not show up on the employees’ official files. The group was created by a CBP supervisory officer, but Maloney said it was unclear if that person had faced discipline.
“I urge CBP to halt its obstruction of the Committee’s investigation, reverse its legally baseless position, and produce a complete and unredacted set of all documents,” Maloney said.
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 previously revealed at least 62 current employees were members of the Facebook group.