EL PASO, Texas - An internal memo from U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows that the agency's leadership was aware, from as early as February 2018, of at least one private Facebook group that included "inappropriate and offensive posts" by its personnel.
The agency said it has launched an investigation into a Facebook group known as “I’m 10-15,” after the account was revealed in a report by ProPublica, that features jokes about migrant deaths, derogatory comments about Latina lawmakers and a lewd meme involving at least one of them.
On Friday, the agency added that it was made aware of an additional secret Facebook group with an apparent nexus to Customs and Border Protection that contains vulgar and sexually explicit posts.
"The Real CBP Nation," which has around 1,000 members, is host to an image that mocks separating migrant families, multiple demeaning memes of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, and other derisive images of Asians and African Americans.
One meme posted following her visit this week to an El Paso border station depicts a manipulated image of her gesturing toward a water fountain with the caption "Is this a toilet?" Following her visit, Ocasio-Cortez charged that people were drinking water from a toilet at the station, an accusation that acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan has denied.
The developments come as the CBP’s leadership is under fire for allowing what Democrats say is a toxic culture to fester at Border Patrol stations, where agents are overwhelmed and under resourced.
“Too much of CBP has been an out of control agency for too long and it must be reined in immediately,” said U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York.
The 2018 memo, released Friday by CBP, suggests agency leaders have known for a while that employees were potentially violating codes of conduct while on social media.
In an all-hands memo sent to agency employees on Feb. 8, 2018, Matthew Klein, CBP’s assistant commissioner of the Office of Professional Responsibility wrote, that the agency “was made aware of a private Facebook group page that only a specific group of CBP employees could access, on which inappropriate and offensive posts were made.”
Klein did not elaborate on the nature of the posts.
"The bottom line is the Agency may bring discipline against an employee who posts offensive messages on a social media page where there is nexus to the Agency workplace,” he added.
The Facebook group referenced in the 2018 memo appears to be the same exposed by ProPublica and currently under investigation by the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general’s office.
CNN first reported Friday that a second group had been uncovered and a CPB spokesperson said the new screenshots have been passed along to its office that investigates employee misconduct.
The agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility, led by Klein, "is investigating the posts to determine the facts," a spokesperson said in a statement.
Recent posts within the secret groups were aimed at Democratic lawmakers, including Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro ahead of his visit earlier this week to El Paso and Clint to tour a pair of CBP's detention facilities.
Castro, the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, called the Facebook posts "disgusting and vile" and said that many agency employees "have become desensitized to the point of being dangerous to the migrants in their care."