(CNSNews.com) - Stretched beyond its capacity to care for the unprecedented numbers of families and children crossing into the United States, the U.S. Border Patrol agency now faces trouble from within.
Customs and Border Protection announced on Monday it has asked the Homeland Security inspector general to investigate "disturbing social media activity hosted on a private Facebook group that may include a number of CBP employees."
ProPublica was the first to report on the secret Facebook group, which calls itself "I'm 10-15." The group, the report said, has around 9,500 members, some of whom posted offensive material, including jokes about the deaths of illegal immigrants and posts of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez being sexually assaulted by President Donald Trump, among other demeaning material.
According to ProPublica, "CBP insiders" said the Facebook group "has played host to offensive memes and degrading humor since it was launched in 2016."
U.S. Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost said in a statement, "These posts are completely inappropriate and contrary to the honor and integrity I see—and expect—from our agents day in and day out. Any employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable.”
Likewise, Matthew Klein, the assistant commissioner of CBP's Office of Professional Responsibility, said, "CBP employees are expected to adhere to CBP's Standards of Conduct...both on and off duty. He noted that Directive No. 51735-013A states, “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. This includes comments and posts made on private social media sites.”
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, also issued a statement of condemnation that put some of the blame on President Trump:
"This Facebook group is beyond sexist and racist – it is truly abhorrent and shameful, and there is no excuse for this depraved behavior. The agents found to be responsible for these vile comments should no longer have the privilege of representing the United States of America in uniform," Thompson said.
"It is clear these Federal law enforcement officials seem empowered by President Trump and seem all too willing to take his anti-immigrant rhetoric to the next level when they think no one is watching. It is also clear that DHS, CBP, and the Border Patrol have serious and systemic problems that must be addressed immediately. The chaos within DHS needs to end and proper leadership needs to be put in place."
Hector Garza, a Border Patrol agent and the vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, told Fox News Monday night that his group condemns the bad behavior of people in the Facebook group: "Now, this group is comprised of retired border patrol agents, active bp agents and some people from the general public. Now we still don't know exactly who made those allegations. But we can guarantee that those people will be held accountable."
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Monday night that conditions at the border facilities are "disgusting."
He spoke after a Democrat delegation, including Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, visited several holding facilities near El Paso on Monday.
"Obviously, what we saw today was disgusting," Nadler said. "When we were at the border just a couple of months ago, we saw also -- although they didn't let us talk to any of the kids, but we saw very disgusting conditions then.
"This is inhuman -- I think it's criminal," Nadler continued. There ought to be criminal prosecutions of some of the agency heads and some of the people for child abuse. This is clearly child abuse, it violates probably a half dozen laws."
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) issued a series of scathing tweets on Monday:
"Now I’ve seen the inside of these facilities," she wrote. "It’s not just the kids. It’s everyone. People drinking out of toilets, officers laughing in front of members Congress. I brought it up to their superiors. They said 'officers are under stress & act out sometimes.' No accountability."
In several other tweets, she wrote: "Just left the 1st CBP facility. I see why CBP officers were being so physically & sexually threatening towards me," she said, referring to the secret Facebook group. "Officers were keeping keeping women in cells w/ no water & had told them to drink out of the toilets. This was them on their GOOD behavior in front of members of Congress."
Here are two more:
"After I forced myself into a cell w/ women & began speaking to them, one of them described their treatment at the hands of officers as 'psychological warfare' - waking them at odd hours for no reason, calling them wh*res, etc. Tell me what about that is due to a 'lack of funding?'”
"There are 20,000 TOTAL Customs & Border Patrol agents in the US. 9,500 - almost HALF that number - are in a racist & sexually violent secret CBP Facebook group. They’re threatening violence on members of Congress. How do you think they’re treating caged children+families?"
According to a report in the Washington Examiner, an agent on the scene said Ocasio-Cortez "misrepresented why a person in custody had drunk from a toilet."
“So this is what happened with the migrant and drinking water from toilet," the CBP agent was quoted as saying. "She wanted water, didn’t know how to use the faucet in the cell, and drank from the toilet. She never told AOC that we made her drink from the toilet. AOC, of course, changed it..."