The Border Patrol has bigger failings to fix than some of its agents’ participation in a secret, hateful Facebook group exposed by the investigative news organization ProPublica.
▪ Agents are still separating children from family members at the border despite an executive order signed by President Donald Trump reneging on his own directive to do so, following a blitz of public outrage.
▪ There are immigrants, including seven children in the last year, dying in custody.
▪ A Department of Homeland Security Inspector General’s report released Tuesday confirmed squalid conditions at five detention centers in Texas.
Some of the camps are unsanitary, overcrowded, without running water — and the immigrants who survive them and are lucky enough to see lawyers almost always tell stories of abusive treatment and behavior by Border Patrol agents.
Meaningful, corrective action by the Border Patrol’s parent agency, the also beleaguered U.S. Customs and Border Protection, is long overdue.
“We are painfully aware of the trauma they experience while in the ‘hieleras’ or ‘perreras’ [border holding cells],” Cheryl Little, the attorney who founded Miami-based Americans for Immigrant Justice and serves as its executive director, told me Tuesday in the wake of new allegations of Border Patrol misconduct.
“One 14-year-old Honduran girl told us that CBP ordered her to ‘get in the dog kennel,’ ” she said. “Another child said a CBP officer yelled at him, ‘Hey, you didn’t hear me, you animal.’ I could go on and on.”
Advocates like Little have been sounding the alarm over the inhumane treatment of immigrants held in CBP facilities on the border for years to scant public attention.
But the vulgar anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic rants, comments, memes and GIFs some Border Patrol agents have published on a members-only Facebook page depict a culture of cruelty, sexism, and bigotry that gives heightened credibility — and new urgency — to the charges of abuse.
On the online forum, the agents joke about the recent deaths of a father and his 23-month-old daughter and they question the authenticity of the photograph that has traveled the world to our collective shame. They drowned trying to cross the Río Grande after they weren’t allowed to ask for asylum at a point of entry, as it is lawful to do.
In another post, the agents show indifference to the death of a 16-year-old boy at a Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas.
And they encourage the throwing of burritos at Hispanic members of Congress who visited Border Patrol facilities in Clint and El Paso, Texas, on Monday.
“Hurl a burrito at these bitches,” one group member wrote, referring to Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Veronica Escobar of Texas.
A patrol supervisor added: “F--- the hoes.”
Outspoken, eloquent Ocasio-Cortez drew the most disrespect.
An agent posted an illustration of her having oral sex with an immigrant and a doctored image of a smiling President Trump forcing the congresswoman to his crotch.
Ocasio-Cortez fired back on her @AOC Twitter account, describing in a series of tweets details of what she saw at the Texas facility, including agent misconduct.
“These officers felt brazen in there,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “While mgmt was telling us it was a ‘secure facility’ where *members of Congress* had to check their phones, we caught officers trying to sneak photos, laughing.”
She added: “CBP’s ‘good’ behavior was toxic. Imagine how they treat women trapped inside.”
Women told her they hadn’t been allowed to shower in 15 days but were told to bathe four days prior to the congressional visit, Ocasio-Cortez said. Some women also told the congresswoman that they were told to drink out of the toilet after their cell faucet broke.
Where’s the United Nation’s Human Rights Council?
It’s clear that the international rights watch group is needed in this country.
We’re talking about a law enforcement agency whose active and former members on that Facebook page not only deal with immigrants but with the traveling public. CBP personnel are the first Americans tourists encounter upon arrival. Those of us who travel abroad already knew how rude they can be, sometimes (as I experienced firsthand on a return flight from Turkey) for no valid reason at all.
Thanks to ProPublica’s investigation, the Facebook group’s use of obscene language and GIFs, and doctored images of Hispanic lawmakers provides proof of what lies beneath the abusive culture.
Quite simply, bigotry and xenophobia.
It’s reprehensible — and the active agents and at least one supervisor involved in the postings should be fired. The lawmakers offended and the Hispanic community at large should get an apology from the agency’s top brass and a commitment to humane, above-board treatment of immigrants.
Border Patrol chief Carla Provost called the posts “completely inappropriate” and said the agency was opening an investigation into the Facebook group.
“Any employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable,” she said.
But others, like the union president — who boasts in a video that President Trump “has given a voice to the agency” — are trying to minimize the damage, saying the secret group doesn’t represent the agency.
The haters are not small in number.
The Facebook page boasts 9,500 members who are active and retired Border Patrol agents.
With as much power and invisibility as these agents have in the execution of their jobs, one bigot is too many.
Only the most miserable of human beings can find amusement in the suffering of desperate immigrants knocking at our door.