WASHINGTON – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Monday that 62 current and eight former Border Patrol employees are under internal investigation following revelations of a secret Facebook group that mocked lawmakers and migrants.
Most are under investigation for posts that surfaced in a secret group called “I'm 10-15,” where messages questioned the authenticity of images of a migrant father and child dead on the banks of the Rio Grande River, and depicted crude, doctored images of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., purporting to perform a sex act on President Donald Trump.
There were posts in at least one other closed group under investigation, he said.
“Messages posted on a private page that are discriminatory or harassing are not protected and violate standards of conduct,” said Matthew Klein, assistant commissioner of the agency's Office of Professional Responsibility.
Klein said his agency referred the case to the Homeland Security Department's watchdog agency, which declined to investigate and sent the case back to Customs and Border Protection. He said they are now focused on fact-finding and would identify criminal behavior if there was any, but it was not considered a criminal probe.
The potential punishment is based upon the severity of the misconduct, whether the employee has previously engaged in misconduct and whether there's a direct tie to their employment. An agent could get counseling or they can get anything from a written reprimand to suspension, demotion or firing.
ProPublica first posted details of the Facebook group, which boasts 9,500 members, just as Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats were headed to tour border facilities.
Some were graphic, doctored images of Ocasio-Cortez, including one that shows a smiling Trump forcing her head toward his crotch, according to screenshots obtained by ProPublica. Other comments refer to Ocasio-Cortez and fellow Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas as “hoes,” and one member encouraged agents to throw a “burrito at these bitches.”
A news story about a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant who died in Border Patrol custody in May elicited a response from one member, “If he dies, he dies.” Another member posted a GIF of the “Sesame Street” character Elmo with the quote “Oh well” in response.