Border agents caught posting racist, sexist messages about migrants & AOC in secret Facebook group

Customs and Border Protection has opened an investigation into the posting of racist and xenophobic messages by current and former Border Patrol agents on a personal Facebook group. More than 9,500 individuals are a part of the group, which was exposed by ProPublica on Monday. The Facebook group is full of racist, homophobic, anti-immigrant and misogynistic content material about migrants and asylum seekers, as well as public officers like Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is depicted in a photoshopped picture being sexually assaulted by President Trump. In another thread, members of the group made fun of a video of a person making an attempt to carry a toddler via a speedy river in a plastic bag. Somebody commented, “At least it’s already in a trash bag.” We converse with ProPublica reporter A.C. Thompson, who broke the story.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: U.S. Customs and Border Safety has opened an investigation into the posting of racist and xenophobic messages by current and former Border Patrol agents on a personal Facebook group. More than 9,500 individuals are part of the group, which was exposed by ProPublica on Monday. The group’s Facebook page is full of racist, homophobic, anti-immigrant and misogynistic content material about migrants, in addition to some lawmakers and different high-profile individuals.

One publish contained a photoshopped image of Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez being sexually assaulted by President Trump. In one other thread, members of the group made fun of a video of a person making an attempt to hold a toddler via a speedy river in a plastic bag. Someone commented, quote, “At least it’s already in a trash bag,” unquote. Requested by a reporter to answer her depiction in the Facebook submit, Congressmember Ocasio-Cortez stated it was, quote, “indicative of the culture” she observed contained in the migrant jail she had simply visited, and stated she didn’t really feel protected around the Border Patrol officers.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: In that final facility, I used to be not protected from the officers in that facility.

NATASHA CHEN: Do you have got any comment about what was posted about you in the alleged Facebook group?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: I imply, I feel it’s just—it’s simply indicative of the violent culture that we saw on the inside.

AMY GOODMAN: On Monday, members of the New York congressional delegation came collectively to sentence the postings in the personal Facebook group. This is Congressmember Nydia Velázquez.

REP. NYDIA VELÁZQUEZ: But here is probably the most chilling half. The individuals behind these posts are chargeable for the well-being of probably the most weak among us—youngsters, pregnant ladies, households. They’re enduring desperate circumstances. And these posts recommend they are actually in the arms of people who interact in vile, racist online conduct.

AMY GOODMAN: Properly, for extra, we go to Berkeley, California, where we’re joined by A.C. Thompson. He’s the man who broke the story, the ProPublica reporter who covers Border Patrol and policing on the southern border, as well as hate crimes and racial extremism. His new piece is headlined “Inside the Secret Border Patrol Facebook Group Where Agents Joke About Migrant Deaths and Post Sexist Memes.”

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A.C., welcome again to Democracy Now! Why don’t you’re taking us on the journey of, first, how you have been alerted to this group, that has, what, greater than 9,500 individuals?

A.C. THOMPSON: You realize, I feel what’s necessary to notice is that there are individuals inside the Border Patrol and the broader CBP agency who don’t like what’s happening there. They say, “Look, the culture has gotten toxic. It has gotten dangerous.” And there are people who have been in that Facebook group who stated, “I want to alert the media about this. What’s going on is absolutely unconscionable.”

Apparently, about 7,000 individuals have left the group since we first did our reporting. And I feel that claims something, that folks understand this isn’t a group they need to be associated with, and what was occurring there was completely incorrect.

AMY GOODMAN: However speak about precisely what you found in this Facebook group. What have been individuals saying?

A.C. THOMPSON: I’ll inform you, I’ve been reporting on regulation enforcement for more than 20 years, and I have never seen something like this. I’ve hung out with corrupt cops, with cops who went to jail. And I just have not seen people who would submit memes joking about sexual assault, apparently celebrating sexual assault. And I’ve not seen individuals, you recognize, type of posting this stuff, referring to the parents that they’re alleged to work together with, with the migrants, as primarily trash or subhuman. And like I stated, I’ve met numerous dangerous cops. This is approach outdoors of the norms of normal conduct, whether or not in the civilian world or the regulation enforcement world.

There have been memes about homophobia, about mocking Anderson Cooper’s sexuality. There have been memes questioning whether migrants who had died making an attempt to cross the river between the USA and Mexico have been truly—if that really occurred, referring to them as “floaters” and saying perhaps it was all a scheme concocted by the Democrats and liberals. I imply, the degrees of antipathy for ladies, for migrants and for only for individuals in basic, very, very excessive.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Nicely, A.C., you noted that CBP agents who’ve posted this type of vitriol on-line in the past have also been discovered to have been concerned in violence or illegal actions towards migrants. Might you speak about that, as properly?

A.C. THOMPSON: You already know, I feel, to me, one of the issues that’s fascinating and concerning—right?—is that we all know that, by the company’s own reporting, they get, quote-unquote, “hundreds” of allegations of excessive drive every year. We all know that they, by their very own reporting, self-discipline a handful of the agents and officers accused in these allegations of extreme pressure.

We know that only recently in California, two Guatemalan teenage women settled a go well with with the company, alleging that they have been sexually groped by an agent in a Border Patrol station in Texas. The company paid out about $125,000 to settle that case, suggesting that it was not a case they needed to take to trial. And what we all know—what I can inform you is that it appears that the agent in query has not been disciplined and continues to be on the drive, and, additional, that CBP didn’t appear prepared to reveal his identify to the legal professionals who have been litigating that case.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, we’re speaking about CBP as a federal regulation enforcement company that is already, what, greater than the FBI or the DEA. It’s the most important federal regulation enforcement company. It additionally has a particularly high document of agents being arrested, doesn’t it?

A.C. THOMPSON: Yeah, that’s pretty beautiful, right? So, that is the nation’s largest regulation enforcement agency. And once you combine customs officers with Border Patrol agents, you’re speaking about around 40,000 regulation enforcement agents—a lot, much greater than some other regulation enforcement agency in the country.

What we know is that, for years now, about 250 staff of CBP have been arrested every year. And that’s a very excessive quantity. The fees range from the minor visitors stuff to, you realize, critical allegations of drug trafficking, of human smuggling, of domestic violence, and so on.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break and then come again to our discussion with A.C. Thompson, the reporter who broke the story of this personal, this secret 9,500-member Facebook group, where—properly, we’ll speak about a number of the issues that they speak about. We’ll speak about the epithets they hurl. His new piece is headlined “Inside the Secret Border Patrol Facebook Group Where Agents Joke About Migrant Deaths and Post Sexist Memes.” Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: “Running (Refugee Song)” featuring Gregory Porter and Widespread. This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Properly, on Monday [sic], members of New York’s congressional delegation got here collectively to condemn racist postings by present and former federal Border Patrol agents in a personal Facebook group . That is Congresswoman Yvette Clarke of Brooklyn.

REP. YVETTE CLARKE: As a member of the Committee on Homeland Safety, I’m extremely appalled by what has been uncovered by ProPublica as a Facebook page that is gathering posts by over 9,000 present and former CBPofficers. This has to return to an finish. Those individuals have to be recognized, should both resign immediately or be removed from their posts. There isn’t a excuse for that sort of conduct amongst the officers that shield us as a nation, which might be liable for giving shelter and care to refugees.

I’ve heard loads of language about who these individuals are on our southern border. Let’s make it clear: They are in search of refuge in america of America. We send funding around the globe to refugee camps, in nations which are war-torn. And right here we’ve got, on our personal border, probably the most horrific detention of humankind in this era, in the USA of America. We can’t abide with this. We won’t abide with this.

And as my colleagues have stated, we’ve heard from Donald Trump that he sees these refugees as an infestation. Let me say this: The infestation that we’re witnessing is inside the Department of Homeland Security, is amongst those CBP agents who’ve determined that they’re going to see these people as less than human and that they may challenge members of Congress, who’re only doing their job in looking for out the truth about what is happening on the border and bringing mild to what have to be achieved to recapture our humanity as a nation.

And so, let me just say this. I can’t sleep. I can’t wink. I shall be targeted like a laser on uprooting all these inside the Division of Homeland Safety, whether or not they’re in Customs and Border Protection or they’re in ICE. Those who would prey upon defenseless people, ladies and youngsters, who are in search of refuge in our nation, have to be purged from our federal service, so that we will recapture who we are as a nation, which is a nation who has welcomed refugees, a nation that has welcomed immigrants, and a nation above all nations, that’s nice because of its immigrant custom.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Brooklyn Democratic Congresswoman Yvette Clark talking with members of the New York congressional delegation on Tuesday—not Monday.

Nonetheless with us is A.C. Thompson of ProPublica. His new piece is titled “Inside the Secret Border Patrol Facebook Group Where Agents Joke About Migrant Deaths and Post Sexist Memes.”

A.C., in phrases of a few of the particulars round, for example, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that you simply discovered on these Facebook posts, might you speak about that, as properly?

A.C. THOMPSON: Yeah. You realize, there’s a specific kind of vitriol directed at the congresswoman. So, there were posts depicting her engaged in sexual actions with migrants in detention. There was the submit, that’s been talked about rather a lot, of her being sexually assaulted by the president. There have been posts about hurling burritos at her and Congresswoman Veronica Escobar as they visited detention amenities in Clint, Texas, lately. And there have been derogatory slurs used towards her and different congresswomen. And I feel that’s one of the key issues here, is a type of hyper-male tradition of, you understand, principally toxic masculinity, to use that cliché, that’s happening on the company.

AMY GOODMAN: On Monday, Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “There are 20,000 TOTAL Customs & Border Patrol agents in the US. 9,500—almost HALF that number—are in a racist & sexually violent secret CBP Facebook group. They’re threatening violence on members of Congress. How do you think they’re treating caged children+families?”

Later, AOC tweeted, “Just left the 1st CBP facility. I see why CBP officers were being so physically & sexually threatening towards me. Officers were keeping women in cells w/ no water & had told them to drink out of the toilets. This was them on their GOOD behavior in front of members of Congress,” Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stated.

A.C. Thompson, in case you might take this additional and speak about this group, this personal, secret Facebook group, how individuals came to be part of it? And as you launch one story after another, I imply, this has—to say the least, you’ve gotten to the Trump administration now, as CBP says they’re launching an investigation, amongst different things. For those who can speak about—are individuals coming ahead increasingly more to you?

A.C. THOMPSON: Yeah, absolutely. And I feel that’s an necessary factor to note. There are individuals within Border Patrol, within CBP, who assume this is awful, who say, “Look, we have a job to do. It’s a tough job. It’s very, very difficult. But we also have a need to behave decently. And that’s what law enforcement does, is even under tough conditions, they behave admirably. And that’s not happening right now.” So individuals are absolutely blowing the whistle. And I encourage anyone else who needs to return forward to succeed in out to me. And I feel there are individuals within this company who just say, “Look, this is—what’s happening here is not acceptable.” And I feel that’s what you’ve seen with the inspector basic for homeland security, too, which is a part of the broader DHS umbrella, saying, “The conditions that we’re seeing in detention are inappropriate, the discipline and misconduct patterns at CBP are inappropriate, and this is something that we’re going to report on.”

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A.C., we’ve seen in current months exposures of other forms of social media groups by regulation enforcement officers in Philadelphia and other cities, the place there was rampant racism and homophobia. And those police departments have begun to take action. However as you’ve written, the Customs and Border Protection’s self-discipline system, which was investigated by Congress a number of years ago, through the Obama administration, has not substantially modified much, has it? Now there are going to be new hearings, arising next week, over this latest report of yours. But what about this entire state of affairs of the discipline procedure inside the agency?

A.C. THOMPSON: Properly, I mean, I feel there have been main modifications in the last several years. What we used to see was a excessive variety of shootings, typically cross-border shootings, at Mexican nationals. And that has dropped dramatically due to new policies that have been carried out in the course of the Obama administration. So there have been massive enhancements there.

However I feel what you see is that you simply see a fragmented self-discipline system, the place loads of issues are handled on the local degree by station supervisors and watch supervisors. It goes on—some stuff is handled by CBP’s inner affairs. Other instances are handled by DHS’s inspector basic. Different instances might find yourself being dealt with by the FBI and, finally, the Division of Justice. Oh, yeah, additionally there’s DHS’s Civil Rights Workplace. So, when you’ve got this many various kind of oversight our bodies, I feel typically what happens is you don’t really have efficient oversight, that there’s turf battles, things fall between the cracks, and there’s no kind of unified, efficient disciplinary system. And I feel that’s what we’re seeing, in common, at that agency.

AMY GOODMAN: A.C. Thompson, you write in your piece in ProPublica, “[I]n 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 [bleep, bleep],’ ‘beaners’ and ‘subhuman.’ The messages included repeated discussions about burning the migrants up.” Now, that’s from over a yr in the past. And in the event you can speak about the way you assume these—what has been happening over this time, the connection of the xenophobic, racist, misogynist language with violence? And speak about what’s coming of this. Do you assume this can be a system that ought to simply be reformed or abolished?

A.C. THOMPSON: You realize, I feel what you’ve seen over current many years at Border Patrol and the broader CBP is there have been points. There’s been a troubled history there. But I feel when you look again to the Bush administration, George W. Bush, you look again to the Obama administration, the tone from the highest was very totally different than what you’re getting now. And I feel what you get in the Trump administration is a really demagogic tone, a really divisive tone. And I feel that that affects the type of actions on the bottom by the frontline agents and officers at CBP. And I feel that’s a huge part of the issue that we’re seeing now. I feel that’s how things have changed.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Would you wish to see a few of the White Home press corps, hopefully, ask President Trump about his response to these posts, particularly to posts of him sexually assaulting Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez?

A.C. THOMPSON: I completely would. And I heard a query requested of him about this yesterday, I consider. And he appeared to assume that it wasn’t a very necessary factor, from what I might tell.

AMY GOODMAN: So, your piece is popping out on the similar time that the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector Common has come out with this damning report saying the state of affairs is at a essential disaster degree. And you’ve got this collection of pictures that have been launched. I’m not talking about Joaquin Castro inside with the Hispanic congressional delegation, you already know, truly using—figuring out a approach to get video out of what was happening inside, which was also horrific. But these are footage taken by the Department of Homeland Security itself—nicely, the Workplace of Inspector Basic—that show the grievous, scandalous overcrowding, the youngsters, the people who find themselves putting up indicators that say “help.” It reminded me of Hurricane Katrina with individuals on their roofs saying “help.” These are the photographs from inside the division. Are you able to speak about the importance of this report popping out on the similar time that your report has come out?

A.C. THOMPSON: Yeah. I feel the circumstances that we’ve seen in detention alongside the border are completely horrifying, proper? And I feel one of many issues that’s concerning about this is that we’ve seen these surges in immigration across the border at totally different occasions. This is not a brand new thing. We went by way of this phenomenon over the past administration. So this is something that an agency that’s as nicely funded as CBP ought to be ready for. That is something that—it’s something that we all know is going to occur occasionally on the border, and so you would be prepared and could possibly be ready to cope with this in a much more humane approach than stuffing individuals in cages by the lots of.

AMY GOODMAN: We need to flip to the top of the House Judiciary Committee, New York Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, who additionally spoke on Tuesday right here in New York, together with different members of the New York delegation.

REP. JERROLD NADLER: The pictures we have now seen in the previous few days from the detention centers in Texas are clearly disgusting. The circumstances beneath which ladies and youngsters are being held are disgusting and quantity to nothing in need of baby abuse and degradation.

The truth that immigrants, that migrants within america may be subjected to such circumstances, to such torture, to such deliberate torture, is a symptom and a consequence of the tradition of contempt started on the prime by the president. … When the president refers to human beings as “infestation,” as in the event that they have been rodents, not human beings, this units the tone and sets the permission for individuals to be brutal and to be dehumanizing.

All of the people who find themselves in these detention amenities are migrants. They all declare asylum. Some of them are entitled underneath our regulation to asylum; some are usually not. All are entitled to humanity, to respectable remedy, to respectable judicial adjudication, and to not be tortured or considered refuse.

All of the individuals in the administration who have completed this, who’ve permitted it, are responsible of child abuse, which is a criminal offense. We should prosecute. The individuals, the agents on Facebook who expressed such contemptuous and racist attitudes ought to not be there. They should be fired. But once more, they’re not solely accountable, because they’re reflecting the racism from the White Home. They’re reflecting the racism proper down the road. We’ve to place a stop to this.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, the chair of the Home Judiciary Committee. A.C. Thompson, the USA wouldn’t hold murderers or prisoners of warfare in circumstances like this, but they’re maintaining—right now our government is protecting individuals in search of asylum, coming throughout the border and in search of asylum, in these circumstances. What do you assume must be completed by Congress and by the American individuals over this example proper now?

A.C. THOMPSON: Yeah, I feel you’re precisely proper. We’ve seen one courtroom case after another involving typical prisons that say you should maintain individuals in humane circumstances. And I feel that’s really what we’re going to anticipate, from the general public, from policymakers, is that you simply just merely can’t hold human beings in these types of absolutely terrible, deplorable circumstances, that that’s not what America is about. That’s not what we anticipate from establishments that the taxpayers fund, is to maintain individuals in these kinds of circumstances. And I feel that’s—I feel that this present state of affairs just simply can’t hold, that folks won’t put up with it.

AMY GOODMAN: A.C., before we transfer on, I needed to ask you about one other story. In Virginia, James Fields, the self-described neo-Nazi who killed activist Heather Heyer at an anti-hate rally in 2017, was sentenced Friday to life in jail. Fields plowed his automotive into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville at the counterprotest of the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally. Following the rally and Heyer’s killing, President Trump claimed there have been “fine people” on each side. A.C., you have been in Charlottesville in 2017 and did the award-winning Frontlinedocumentary, Documenting Hate. Can you speak about the importance of the sentencing of James Fields, and in addition the work you did identifying the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists who have been marching? Maybe scarier than if they have been marching beneath white sheets is that they felt snug to march with their faces utterly uncovered. And also you steadfastly have recognized numerous these individuals. So, the importance of the sentencing of Fields and the work you did there, and should you see connections to what you’re doing right now, exposing this personal Facebook group of almost 10,000 border agents?

A.C. THOMPSON: Yeah, I feel the Fields case is a very necessary case, a victory for prosecutors. And in some of these other instances that we’ve seen popping out of Unite the Right and popping out of the white supremacist violence of that yr, prosecutors have had combined results. A few of these instances have been tossed out by judges. And this is among the ones that has been actually very successful for prosecutors. And I feel it’s a key message being sent there.

I feel the factor that I see that’s really disturbing—right?—is once you go inside the white supremacist chats, there’s this misogyny. There’s this virtually misanthropy. There’s this anger at everyone, and this discussion of all these totally different groups of people as subhuman. Whenever you go inside the Border Patrol Facebook group, the secret Facebook group, loads of these guys, perhaps most of these individuals, are Chicanos. A whole lot of them are Mexican People. And but there’s additionally this type of misogyny and dehumanizing type of language and type of a way that one group of people—migrants—are “the other,” they usually’re so totally different from us that they will’t actually be human. And I see particular parallels between the two differing types of groups, the white supremacist groups and what they’re speaking about online and then these Border Patrol Facebook teams and kind of what they’re talking about online, regardless that numerous the individuals in the Border Patrol group aren’t white.

AMY GOODMAN: Properly, are you going to be testifying earlier than Congress?

A.C. THOMPSON: I don’t know. I feel I hope not, however we’ll see.

AMY GOODMAN: And in addition, did you’ve gotten any evidence of CBP, Customs and Border Protection, or other businesses of the U.S. government figuring out about this personal, this, what you name secret, Facebook page?

A.C. THOMPSON: Yeah, yeah. And I name it secret as a result of that’s what it’s labeled as on Facebook. It’s not seen to outsiders who aren’t members. You already know, here’s the factor—

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that. Explain the difference between personal and secret.

A.C. THOMPSON: Proper, proper. So, this can be a—individuals ask me, like, “How do I find this Facebook group?” And the reply is: You don’t find it, until you’ve been invited to hitch it. And it is labeled on the entrance web page as a secret group. It isn’t visible to outsiders in any respect.

I don’t know that this has been reported to any of those many various oversight our bodies for CBP before this. I’ve to assume it in all probability was sooner or later. And that might be, I feel, a key thing to ask policymakers and agency officials, like, “Hey, did anyone tell you about this? Because there was a lot of people in it, and it seems like somebody had to have reported this in the past. And if so, what happened to that report? Did you act on it?”

AMY GOODMAN: A.C. Thompson, we need to thanks for being with us. A.C. Thompson of ProPublica, his new piece headlined “Inside the Secret Border Patrol Facebook Group Where Agents Joke About Migrant Deaths and Post Sexist Memes,” we’ll link to it at democracynow.org.

Once we come again, we go to Tucson, Arizona, the place federal prosecutors have determined to retry humanitarian assist volunteer Scott Warren for making an attempt to make sure that migrants get water, get meals, get clothing as they make their means into this country. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: “Ice” by La Santa Cecilia. You possibly can go to their efficiency at Democracy Now! and our interview with them at democracynow.org.