Members of a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents joked about the deaths of migrants, discussed throwing burritos at Latino members of Congress visiting a detention facility in Texas on Monday and posted a vulgar illustration depicting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez engaged in oral sex with a detained migrant, according to screenshots of their postings.
In one exchange, group members responded with indifference and wisecracks to the post of a news story about a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant who died in May while in custody at a Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas. One member posted a GIF of Elmo with the quote, “Oh well.” Another responded with an image and the words “If he dies, he dies.”
Created in August 2016, the Facebook group is called “I’m 10-15” and boasts roughly 9,500 members from across the country. (10-15 is Border Patrol code for “aliens in custody.”) The group described itself, in an online introduction, as a forum for “funny” and “serious” discussion about work with the patrol. “Remember you are never alone in this family,” the introduction said.
Responsible for policing the nation’s southern and northern boundaries, the Border Patrol has come under intense scrutiny as the Trump administration takes new, more aggressive measures to halt the influx of undocumented migrants across the United States-Mexico border. The patrol’s approximately 20,000 agents serve under the broader U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, which has been faulted for allegedly mistreating children and adults in its custody. The agency’s leadership has been in turmoil, with its most recent acting chief, John Sanders, resigning last week.
ProPublica received images of several recent discussions in the 10-15 Facebook group and was able to link the participants in those online conversations to apparently legitimate Facebook profiles belonging to Border Patrol agents, including a supervisor based in El Paso, Texas, and an agent in Eagle Pass, Texas. ProPublica has so far been unable to reach the group members who made the postings.
ProPublica contacted three spokespeople for CBP in regard to the Facebook group and provided the names of three agents who appear to have participated in the online chats. CBP hasn’t yet responded.
“These comments and memes are extremely troubling,” said Daniel Martinez, a sociologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson who studies the border. “They’re clearly xenophobic and sexist.”
The postings, in his view, reflect what “seems to be a pervasive culture of cruelty aimed at immigrants within CBP. This isn’t just a few rogue agents or ‘bad apples.’”
The Border Patrol Facebook group is the most recent example of some law enforcement personnel behaving badly in public and private digital spaces. An investigation by Reveal uncovered hundreds of active-duty and retired law enforcement officers who moved in extremist Facebook circles, including white supremacist and anti-government groups. A team of researchers calling themselves the Plain View Project recently released a hefty database of offensive Facebook posts made by current and ex-law enforcement officers.
And in early 2018, federal investigators found a raft of disturbing and racist text messages sent by Border Patrol agents in southern Arizona after searching the phone of Matthew Bowen, an agent charged with running down a Guatemalan migrant with a Ford F-150 pickup truck. The texts, which were revealed in a court filing in federal court in Tucson, described migrants as “guats,” “wild ass shitbags,” “beaners” and “subhuman.” The messages included repeated discussions about burning the migrants up.
Several of the postings reviewed by ProPublica refer to the planned visit by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, including Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Veronica Escobar, to a troubled Border Patrol facility outside of El Paso. Agents at the compound in Clint, Texas, have been accused of holding children in neglectful, inhumane conditions.
Members of the Border Patrol Facebook group were not enthused about the tour, noting that Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from Queens, had compared Border Patrol facilities to Nazi concentration camps. Escobar is a freshman Democrat representing El Paso.
One member encouraged Border Patrol agents to hurl a “burrito at these bitches.” Another, apparently a patrol supervisor, wrote, “Fuck the hoes.” “There should be no photo ops for these scum buckets,” posted a third member.
Perhaps the most disturbing posts target Ocasio-Cortez. 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 posts about Escobar and Ocasio-Cortez are “vile and sexist,” said a staffer for Escobar. “Furthermore, the comments made by Border Patrol agents towards immigrants, especially those that have lost their lives, are disgusting and show a complete disregard for human life and dignity.”
The head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Joaquin Castro, reviewed the Facebook discussions and was incensed. “It confirms some of the worst criticisms of Customs and Border Protection,” said Castro, a Democrat who represents San Antonio. “These are clearly agents who are desensitized to the point of being dangerous to migrants and their co-workers.” He added that the agents who made the vulgar comments “don’t deserve to wear any uniform representing the United States of America.”
Vicki Gaubeca, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition, said the postings are more evidence of the sexism and misogyny that has long plagued the Border Patrol. “That’s why they’re the worst at recruiting women,” said Gaubeca, whose group works to reform the agency. “They have the lowest percentage of female agents or officers of any federal law enforcement agency.”
In another thread, a group member posted a photo of father and his 23-month-old daughter lying face down in the Rio Grande. The pair drowned while trying to ford the river and cross into the U.S.; pictures of the two have circulated widely online in recent days, generating an outcry.
The member asked if the photo could have been faked because the bodies were so “clean.” (The picture was taken by an Associated Press photographer, and there is no indication that it was staged or manipulated.) “I HAVE NEVER SEEN FLOATERS LIKE THIS,” the person wrote, adding, “could this be another edited photo. We’ve all seen the dems and liberal parties do some pretty sick things…”
–A.C. Thompson, ProPublica
If you have any information about the Border Patrol you’d like to share, please email ProPublica at [email protected]. For more secure ways to send information, please see the instructions.
Other guy says
You can be a blowhard without acting disgusting. These loud and proud, sanctimonious, self proclaimed “Super Americans.” Need to find some chill and log out. Maybe a few less hours of mindgarbage from cable news entertainment channels would be a start, oh ya… and President Twitter doesn’t help keep the tone polite either. This disgusting behavior is getting so old. Grow up America!
It seems we can not trust authorities anymore. We must obey or they will kill us. It seems the ones who are suppose to protect us, hate us. Our women are not safe, our children are not safe.
Sorry, but with today’s super technology you cannot believe what you see. There is so much photo manipulation going on these days you can’t trust any of them.
So what! When nothing can be done to these lawbreakers/invaders except house them then let them go they have to vent frustrations. Then get bad mouthed by liberals for doing a thankless job.
And now Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and many more services are taking our facial recognition and selling it to the government without our knowledge or permission!?
Michael Cocchiola says
This is Trump’s America, now… ugly, vulgar and out of control. We are an international embarrassment. Some would consider us a rogue nation.
Then they have us brainwashed about going into wars overseas were our braves give their lives to defend human rights of others…
Good Morning and Happy 5th of July!
Thoughts from the top of my head. How do we now define the characteristics of being an upstanding, moral, patriotic US American? Howze about taking a moment to ponder the following list of “character”, principle and intellectual descriptors and see where you personally fit on the scale. With one being the strongest and ten being the weakest.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1. BEING HONEST
2. TELLING THE TRUTH
3. DOING THE “RIGHT” THING FOR “ALL” CONCERNED
4. REALLY LISTENING AND TRYING TO UNDERSTAND OTHERS
5. COURAGE OF CONVICTIONS
6. BEING PEACEFUL
7. BEING DIPLOMATIC AND RESPECTFUL
8. PROTECTING FAMILY AND COUNTRY
9. BEING CHARITABLE
10. BEING UNBIASED AND ACCEPTING DIFFERENCES IN OTHERS
11. ACCEPTING SCIENTIFIC FACTS
12. BEING COMPASSIONATE
13. HELPING THOSE IN NEED
14. CARING FOR OUR SHARED PLANET AND ENVIRONMENT
15. BEING HUMANE
16. BEING ETHICAL
17. IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION, THAT NEVER ENDS
18. BELIEVING IN EQUALITY FOR ALL
19. BEING NON-JUDGEMENTAL
20. BEING HONORABLE
21. HAVING A CLEAR CONSCIENCE
22. ACTING IN ACCORDANCE WITH CORE BELIEFS
23. STRIVING TO BE A BETTER PERSON
24. ACTIVE IN YOUR SOCIETY/COMMUNITY
25. PARTICIPATION IN CREATING A BETTER FUTURE FOR ALL
Now that you’ve honestly graded yourself. . . take a moment to grade those in our current federal and state and local governments. ACT ACCORDINGLY! VOTE ACCORDINGLY!
There is a huge difference between venting frustrations and saying vulgar, foul, horrific things about other human beings. If you think this is acceptable, you are not much different than the people quoted in this article. People who say and think the way these people do, do not deserve to represent the United States in any way.
What Else Is New says
Bless you, Sherry.. What a wonderful human event if each of us could strive to reach those 25 traits. Thank you for reminding us of kindness, peace and integrity.