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The scandal associated with the secret Facebook group where Customs and Border Protection agents posted racist, misogynistic, and threatening content has ensnared its most high-profile person to date: Border Patrol chief Carla Provost.
This morning, the Intercept reported that Provost, who heads the agency, was a member of “I’m 10-15,” now archived as “America First X 2.”
ProPublica broke the story about the group on July 1. Its members were revealed to have joked about migrant deaths in CBP custody, posted vile memes like that of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) engaged in oral sex with a detained migrant, threatened to pelt Latinx members of a visiting Congressional delegation with burritos, and joked about staging a “bang-in” during their visit.
The revelations drew an immediate response from the Department of Homeland Security, which launched an investigation, and from Provost herself. Lawmakers have also initiated two investigations.
In a statement at the time, Provost said, “These posts are completely inappropriate and contrary to the honor and integrity I see—and expect—from our agents day in and day out. Any employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable.”
The post Provost reportedly made on the group page occurred in Nov. 2018, three months after she was appointed to her current position. It was an innocuous comeback to comments about her appointment; nevertheless, her awareness of and involvement with the page gives rise to questions about the culture at CBP.
Provost has thus far declined comment; in a statement to the Intercept, CBP said it “is investigating the material provided to CBP this week from multiple sources.”
“CBP does not tolerate misconduct on or off duty and will hold those who violate our code of conduct accountable,” the statement reportedly said. “Several CBP employees have received cease and desist letters and several of those have been placed on administrative duties pending the results of the investigation. These posts do not reflect the core values of the Agency and do not reflect the vast majority of employees who conduct themselves professionally and honorably every day, on and off duty.”
Provost is not the only high-ranking CBP official accused of being a current or former member of the group, which at its height had 9,500 members.
The Intercept reports that three chief patrol agents are or were members: “Matthew Hudak, of the Big Bend sector, whose last post was in August 10, 2016; Rodney S. Scott, of the San Diego sector, whose last post was November 17, 2018 and remains in the group; and Jason D. Owens, former deputy chief patrol agent for the Laredo, Texas sector, who now oversees operations the Border Patrol’s Houlton sector in Maine.”
The outlet also reports that nine “Patrol Agents In Charge” of Border Patrol stations were involved with the group, as well as some union figureheads, including at least one—Hector Garza—who has had “direct access” to President Donald Trump.
Disturbingly, some of the most abhorrent memes—including that of Trump forcing Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s head into his crotch—were reportedly posted by a Border Patrol station supervisor.
Politico has also reported that senior Border Patrol officials and CBP public relations personnel were aware of the group and monitored it to track sentiment at the agency. CBP denies monitoring the group, which seems either unlikely or negligent in the wake of this morning’s revelations.
The news comes as lawmakers, inspectors general of DHS, and the Department of Health and Human Services are attending a Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing to discuss their recent visit to the immigrant detention facilities on the border.
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Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.