The people who imprison our country’s immigrants have been accused of myriad injustices, among them physical and sexual abuse of children and causing immigrants’ deaths, but a new report details how members of that community make their disdain even more explicit online.
According to a ProPublica investigation published Monday, thousands of people are members of a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents, in which members joked about the deaths of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter in the Rio Grande river; made sexist remarks about Latinx female lawmakers like Texas. Rep. Veronica Escobar and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; and shared dehumanizing, sexist memes of Ocasio-Cortez.
ProPublica, which published screenshots of the posts, detailed exchanges among 9,500 total members of the group, called “I’m 10-15.” The group was created in August 2016, the name a reference to the Border Patrol code 10-15 meaning “aliens in custody.”
Many of the exchanges detailed were clearly xenophobic, with some nakedly racist as well. One member responded with a GIF of Elmo saying “Oh well” in response to the death of a 16-year-old in CBP custody in May, one of at least seven who have died while in, or shortly after, American custody. Another poster raised conspiracy theories about the photo of Martínez Ramírez and his daughter lying dead in the river, questioning if the photo was “edited” because the “floaters” were so “clean.”
Another post referenced Escobar and Ocasio-Cortez visiting the Clint, TX, Border Patrol facility where children said they were fed frozen food and unable to shower for weeks. Per the site, members posted comments like “fuck these hoes,” called the women “scum buckets,” and encouraged agents at the facility to “throw a 10-15 burrito at one of these bitches.”
Ocasio-Cortez, who’s been harshly critical of the organization, was a target for some of the worst content unearthed by ProPublica:
One includes a photo illustration of her engaged in oral sex at an immigrant detention center. Text accompanying the image reads, “Lucky Illegal Immigrant Glory Hole Special Starring AOC.”
Another is a photo illustration of a smiling President Donald Trump forcing Ocasio-Cortez’s head toward his crotch. The agent who posted the image commented: “That’s right bitches. The masses have spoken and today democracy won.”
The offices of Escobar and Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, condemned the Facebook group, with Castro saying “these are clearly agents who are desensitized to the point of being dangerous to migrants and their co-workers.”
ProPublica said it received the screenshots of the Facebook group discussions and was able to connect profiles in the conversation to real Border Patrol agents, including an agent in Eagle Pass, TX, and a supervisor in El Paso. ProPublica provided Border Patrol with the names of three agents who posted to the Facebook page but hadn’t received a response. (Splinter also reached out to the agency for comment and will update this post if we hear back.)
The department has been the subject of increased scrutiny after the Associated Press broke news that the Clint facility was housing children who were left to look after other kids as young as toddlers. CBP leadership claimed the reports of the poor conditions were baseless and lodged by lawyers with an agenda but said they’re looking into them.
Meanwhile, CBP Acting Commissioner John Sanders announced his resignation last week, with his last day being this Friday. Current Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Mark Morgan, who pushed for the ICE raids that would have targeted thousands of families, is slated to replace Sanders.
Update, 2:45 p.m. ET: On Twitter, CBP released a statement from Matthew Klein, assistant commissioner at the Office of Professional Responsibility, saying CBP was aware of the “disturbing” Facebook posts. Klein said he alerted the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General and has “initiated” an investigation.
In the same statement, U.S. Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost called the Facebook posts “completely inappropriate” and said any employees found to have violated CBP’s Standards of Conduct would be “held accountable.”