During a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing about migrant facilities at the border on Thursday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took an opportunity to confront the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security to ask why thousands of Customs and Border Patrol officers belonged to an allegedly racist and sexist secret Facebook group.
On Thursday, the congresswoman targeted President Donald Trump’s administration’s family separation policy and the worsening conditions at migrant detention centers. Ocasio-Cortez asked the head of the DHS, Kevin McAleenan, what has led to the “dehumanizing culture” within the agency.
ProPublica reported earlier this month that the group — a platform for current and former Border Patrol agents — had been around for three years and had around 9,500 members. The group’s information page listed it as a forum for “funny” and “serious” discussions about work with the patrol.
It has since been taken down, but the members’ only group was called “I’m 10-15”, which is a code border officials use for “aliens in custody.”
According to ProPublica, posts in the group included jokes about the deaths of migrants and throwing burritos at Latino members of Congress, as well as vulgar photoshopped images of Ocasio-Cortez being raped with the caption “Lucky Illegal Immigrant Glory Hole Special Starring AOC.” AOC is widely used as an abbreviated form of the congresswoman’s name.
Back to business.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 18, 2019
Today I questioned Acting DHS Sec McAleenan on reports that Trump offered him a pardon if he violated US law to block asylum seekers, & whether those in the CBP group who threatened Members of Congress & shared rape images are still in charge of women+children. https://t.co/FzA4kp9xJR
According to Vice, the report prompted more than 60 current and eight former Border Patrol employees to be placed under internal investigation.
Ocasio-Cortez asked McAleenan directly about the report, and how it could be seen as an example of the “dehumanizing culture” in the DHS.
“Are you aware of the ProPublica report indicating that there were about 10,000 potential current and former CBP officers in the violently racist and sexist Facebook group?”
McAleenan responded that he had.
“Did you see the posts planning physical harm to myself and Congresswoman Escobar?” Ocasio-Cortez asked, referring to Veronica Escobar, a Democratic congresswoman who visited migrant detention facilities with her earlier this month, according to CNN.
McAleenan said that he had seen the posts and had “directed an investigation within minutes of reading the article.”
Ocasio-Cortez pressed on with the uncomfortable questions.
“Did you see the images of officers circulating photoshopped images of my violent rape?”
McAleenan said, “Yes, I did.”
The congresswoman then asked if those border patrol agents are still on the job and still responsible for the care of women and children.
“We’ve already put individuals on administrative duties, I don’t know which ones correspond to which posts and we’ve issued cease and desist orders to dozens more,” said McAleenan.
“Did you see the photoshopped images officers circulated of my violent rape?”@AOC confronted acting DHS Sec. Kevin McAleenan about why thousands of CBP officers belonged to a "racist and sexist" Facebook group pic.twitter.com/bS7w1BbpFH— Bloomberg TicToc (@tictoc) July 18, 2019
McAleenan denied accusations about the agency’s culture.
“This is an agency that rescues 4,000 people a year.”
The DHS chief agreed that the Facebook group was “unacceptable,” but said that he didn’t think it was fair to drag the entire organization through the mud because of the actions of a few.
The exchange came just days of Trump attached Ocasio-Cortez and three other freshmen Congresswomen of color who have criticized his administration’s policies.
Trump sent a series of tweets suggesting that Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib should “go back” to where they came from.