The vast majority of Customs and Border Protection agents who engaged in secretive social media groups that featured violent, bigoted posts against migrants and members of Congress ultimately received significantly reduced discipline measures, according to a report released Monday by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Agency officials launched an internal investigation into 135 employees for "inappropriate social media activity" and determined that 60 agents were subject to discipline. Among those, two were fired, 43 were suspended without pay, 12 received letters of reprimand, and three were issued alternative disciplinary actions, such as a suspension without pay, the report stated.
Ten other employees retired before a final misconduct determination was made. Eleven employees not subject to discipline received other "non-disciplinary actions," according to the report, such as letters of caution.
The vast majority of the agents who committed misconduct, including those who made degrading and threatening comments about migrants, were allowed to continue working with migrants, according to the report.
Eighteen agents whom CBP's discipline review board recommended removing from their positions had their discipline reduced to suspensions, according to the report. One proposed removal was reduced to a letter of reprimand. Another became an "oral admonishment."
The report contains findings from an investigation launched in 2019 by the Committee on Oversight and Reform following media reports about a secret Facebook group in which members of the agency used dehumanizing and derogatory language toward Latina members of Congress and deceased migrants.
CBP, which oversees Border Patrol, began producing unredacted documents this past February after the Trump administration obstructed the investigation for more than a year, the report states. Documents showed the agency was aware of inappropriate Facebook posts three years before they were publicized in news outlets.
The most prominent Facebook group, known as "I'm 10-15" — the code used by Border Patrol for migrants in custody — was first reported on by ProPublica, and once had 9,500 members. The group's vulgar posts included an illustration of Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez being sexually assaulted by President Trump and others that mocked migrants who drowned in the Rio Grande.
Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney said in a statement that she was deeply troubled by the findings.
"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," she said. "CBP must take immediate steps to reform its disciplinary processes, strengthen social media policies and training, and address longstanding issues of poor morale within its ranks."©2021 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.