House Panel Wants Answers On Racist CBP Facebook Posts
By Kenneth Corbin
The chairman of a prominent House committee is asking for answers about secret Facebook groups that aired racist and sexist comments made by agents of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.
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In a letter to a top official at the agency, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who heads the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wrote that his panel is “investigating racist, sexist and xenophobic comments relating to immigrants and members of Congress made by employees of the Customs and Border Protection in ‘secret’ Facebook groups.”
“The committee is concerned that Border Patrol agents and other CBP employees who wrote posts disparaging immigrants may still be working with immigrants and children,” Cummings wrote.
In testimony to the committee earlier this month, acting homeland security secretary Kevin McAleenan described the posts as “unacceptable,” and said that CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility had launched an investigation.
McAleenan told the committee that the agency had placed several employees on administrative duty, but could not name any of the specific positions who had been reassigned owing to the investigation.
Cummings is suspicious. In his letter, he asks for information in a number of areas about the groups and the internal investigation, and notes that the CBP did not honor his request for a briefing on the matter.
Spokesmen for the CBP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a statement, a Facebook spokesman said the company has “been in regular contact with the House Oversight and Government Reform committee and will continue to work with the committee to lawfully obtain the information it is seeking.”
“We are also continuing to cooperate with federal authorities,” the spokesman added.
The “secret” Facebook groups came to light at the beginning of the month in a ProPublica investigation, which documented numerous slurs against migrants along the southern border and derogatory comments about members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
ProPublica noted that the CBP posts, made in secret Facebook groups known as “I’m 10-15″ and “The Real CBP Nation” come as “the most recent example of some law enforcement personnel behaving badly in public and private digital spaces.”
To some observers — including Cummings — the posts suggest that Facebook needs to do a better job of enforcing its policies against hate speech.
Cummings has issued an expansive data request to CBP, calling for the agency to turn over every piece of content from the secret Facebook groups dating to Jan. 20, 2017, along with identifying information about the thousands of current and former CBP employees who were members of the groups.
He is also seeking the name, position and employment status of every employee who is under investigation.
Cummings further asks the CBP to comply with his request for a briefing on the matter by Aug. 7, 2019.