Department of Homeland Security

Oversight finds limited repercussions for border agents who made offensive social media posts

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Some 60 U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents “committed misconduct” by posting inappropriate comments in a closed Facebook group, yet only two were ultimately fired, according to an investigation from the House Oversight and Reform Committee. 

The Monday report, released with a warning that it contains “offensive” content, reviewed in some cases repeated comments from officers, 57 of whom continue to work with migrants today.

“The vast majority of agents — including those who made degrading and even threatening comments about migrants — received only minor discipline,” the report says.

The investigation was spurred by a 2019 ProPublica review of the “I’m 10-15” Facebook group, a secret one referencing the code used by Border Patrol agents to confirm they have “aliens in custody.”

The report comes after the Biden administration released records to the committee long stalled under the Trump administration, which had redacted documents “masking which employees were charged with misconduct, the roles they held at CBP, how they were disciplined, and whether they continued to work with migrant populations.” The Trump administration had defied a committee subpoena seeking the information.

The review found instances not covered in the original ProPublica report, including a case where an employee shared internal CBP video of a migrant falling off a cliff to their death.

That same employee also posted sexually explicit content that involved a superimposed image of a member of Congress, but had their discipline reduced from removal to a 30-day suspension. 

In a case reported by ProPublica in which an officer posted photos drowned father and child he referred to as “floaters,” the employee was found to have a history of multiple infractions. He retired with disability benefits rather than face removal or discipline.

The report notes that CBP warned officers in 2018 about posting in the group, reminding them that off-duty commentary could still be “actionable.”

Still, while 24 officers were initially recommended for removal due to inappropriate posts, only two were ultimately let go. Eighteen were given suspensions without pay, one was reduced to a letter of reprimand, and one was reduced to an “oral admonishment.” Two agents retired shortly after the Discipline Review Board proposed removal. 

“I am deeply troubled by CBP’s broken disciplinary process that allowed for significant reductions in discipline and allowed agents to resume work with migrants and children after engaging in serious misconduct,” House Oversight and Reform Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

“CBP’s failure to prevent these violent and offensive statements by its own agents or impose adequate discipline creates a serious risk that this behavior will continue.”

A CBP spokesperson told The Hill the agency has since begun to develop social media training for its employees that will be required every year.

“CBP will not tolerate hateful, misogynist, or racist behavior or any conduct that is unbecoming of the honor we hold as public servants. [The Department of Homeland Security], including CBP, is participating in an internal review as directed by Secretary Mayorkas to identify and terminate intolerable prejudice, and to reform policies and training,” the agency said in a statement.

“CBP is working to review policies and to underscore the need to respect the dignity of every individual, fight against discrimination, safeguard civil rights and civil liberties, and increase transparency and accountability.”

—Updated at 6:12 p.m.

Tags Carolyn Maloney Facebook ProPublica U.S. Customs and Border Protection

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