House Oversight accuses Border Patrol of blocking investigation into secret Facebook group

House Oversight accuses Border Patrol of blocking investigation into secret Facebook group
© Greg Nash

The House Oversight Committee accused U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials on Tuesday of "stonewalling" an investigation into a secret Facebook group made up of current and former Border Patrol members which contained offensive content about migrants.

Rep. Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyFEMA tells House panel national supply of ventilators running low Stimulus opens new front in Trump's oversight fight Overnight Health Care: Trump resists pressure for nationwide stay-at-home order | Trump open to speaking to Biden about virus response | Fauci gets security detail | Outbreak creates emergency in nursing homes MORE (D-N.Y.) wrote in a letter to CBP administrators that House officials have yet to receive documents requested by the panel in July of last year, despite numerous attempts by lawmakers to inquire about the status of the documents.

“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. This stonewalling is unacceptable,” Maloney wrote in the letter.

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“The Committee now insists on full compliance with all of its previous requests, or we will be forced to consider compulsory process," she added.

CBP officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

It was reported last year that the agency was investigating as many as 62 current agents for membership in the Facebook group, which was filled with racist and sexist comments and derogatory posts about lawmakers critical of the agency as well as migrants.

"These posts are completely inappropriate and contrary to the honor and integrity I see — and expect — from our agents day in and day out," former Border Patrol chief Carla Provost said in a statement last year.

"Any employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable," she added at the time.

The House Oversight Committee kicked off an investigation into the controversial Facebook group last summer. Now, it says CBP has failed to provide its staff with a litany of documents and has refused to make any of its employees available for interviews.

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"CBP has been obstructing the committee’s investigation by making baseless and shifting legal claims in order to avoid producing critical documents and witnesses," the letter reads. 

"As a result, the Committee has been unable to determine whether CBP employees who made inappropriate and threatening comments are still on the job, potentially putting children, immigrants and fellow CBP employees at risk," Maloney added.

The Democrats are also questioning whether the newly selected head of Border Patrol participated in the Facebook group. 

CBP has declined to publicly answer questions about Rodney Scott's engagement with the Facebook group for agents, which ProPublica first reported contained lewd and xenophobic posts.

Scott was officially tapped to lead CBP last month, replacing Provost, who retired amid heavy criticism over her participation in the secret Facebook group, which had about 9,500 members.  
 
Since ProPublica revealed the Facebook group's activities in July, CBP has fired multiple Border Patrol agents over their involvement in the group. An internal review recommended the agency fire seven people and take disciplinary action against 20.  

One Facebook post uncovered last year featured an illustration of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOvernight Health Care: Global coronavirus cases top 1M | Cities across country in danger of becoming new hotspots | Trump to recommend certain Americans wear masks | Record 6.6M file jobless claims Trump blasts Schumer over 'incorrect sound bites' on coronavirus Trump warns against 'partisan investigations' after Pelosi establishes select committee on virus response MORE (D-N.Y.) engaged in oral sex with a detained migrant, while another showed President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump fires intelligence community inspector general who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint Trump organization has laid off over 1000 employees due to pandemic: report Trump invokes Defense Production Act to prevent export of surgical masks, gloves MORE forcing Ocasio-Cortez toward his crotch with the comment, "That's right bitches. The masses have spoken and today democracy won." 

In response to a post about a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant who died in May at a Border Patrol station, one member wrote, "If he dies, he dies," while another posted an Elmo GIF that read, "Oh well."

Maloney in the letter said the committee is considering "compulsory" measures amid CBP's refusal to comply with lawmakers' demands.

"The Committee now insists on full compliance with all of its previous requests, or we will be forced to consider compulsory process," Maloney wrote Tuesday.