EL PASO, Texas - The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency's Inspector General launched an investigation Monday into allegations that a secret Facebook group being utilized by thousands of current and former Border Patrol agents is filled with highly derogatory posts targeting migrants and lawmakers.
Meantime, the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Congress Caucus, visiting border facilities in the El Paso area on Monday, also signaled a separate probe by Congress into the revelations stemming from a report published by the nonprofit and Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative news organization ProPublica.
"It is a vulgar, disgusting and violent (Facebook) page that shows unfortunately that there are many within CPB who have become dangerous," said Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), who heads the caucus, at an afternoon news conference where lawmakers were sometimes drowned out by a group of hecklers that assembled nearby.
"We expect that there will be a full investigation, I expect there will be a Congressional investigation," he told reporters.
"Whether it's the Facebook page or the chants that you're hearing today, it's a dehumanizing of people that is very dangerous to our country," added Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), who represents the El Paso area and sits on the House Judiciary Committee. (Watch the news conference in the video player below.)
The 3-year old secret Facebook group is called "10-15," which is Border Patrol code for "aliens in custody." It has about 9,500 members and ProPublica said it was able to link several recent discussions to legitimate Facebook profiles belonging to Border Patrol agents, including a supervisor based here in El Paso.
According to the report, some of the latest postings shared in the group targeted the Hispanic lawmakers who visited the troubled Clint Border Patrol station on Monday afternoon, calling them "scum buckets" and "hoes."
Other posts included memes joking about the deaths of migrants, including children, and discussions of violence and sexual misconduct towards members of Congress.
"This isn't about 'a few bad eggs.' This is a violent culture," reacted Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York). She tweeted: "How on earth can CBP's culture be trusted to care for refugees humanely?"
Ocasio-Cortez was specifically targeted by the "10-15" Facebook page — which included talk of setting up an online GoFundMe account to raise money to harm her, as well as photo-shopped images purporting to show President Trump forcing her to have oral sex with a migrant.
Border Patrol chief Carla Provost issued a statement saying, "these posts are completely inappropriate and contrary to the honor and integrity I see — and expect— from our agents day in and day out,"
She indicated the matter had been referred to the Inspector General for investigation and added that "any employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable."
Experts outside the agency also found the posts disturbing and suggested there may be a culture problem at CBP.
The postings 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,'" Daniel Martinez, a sociologist in border studies at the University of Arizona, told ProPublica.