Border agency fires 4, suspends 38 for social media posts

WASHINGTON — The Border Patrol’s parent agency said Friday that it fired four employees and suspended 38 were without pay for inappropriate social media activity following revelations of a secret Facebook group that mocked members of Congress and migrants.

The investigation began in July 2019 after posts surfaced in a secret Facebook group called “I’m 10-15.” They questioned the authenticity of images of a migrant father and child dead on the banks of the Rio Grande River and depicted doctored images of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez purporting to perform a sex act on President Donald Trump.

Customs and Border Protection said another 33 employees were disciplined with reprimands or counselling. Of 138 cases investigated, 63 were found unsubstantiated. Six cases remained open to investigation Wednesday.

The agency said the disciplinary actions, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, addressed violations of its standards of conduct and behaviour that is “contrary to our core values of vigilance, service to country, and integrity.”

The Facebook 10-15 group, which had 9,500 members and is named for someone in Border Patrol custody, included graphic posts that referred to Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Veronica Escobar as “hoes.”

A news story about a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy who died in Border Patrol custody 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.”

Escobar, a Texas Democrat, said on Twitter that the investigation should have addressed why other group members didn’t report the activity. She said the posts mocked “vulnerable people dehumanized by a broken system” and that Facebook is a “cesspool.”

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