33 House Democrats demand resignation of US Border Patrol Chief over secret Facebook group

33 House Democrats demand resignation of US Border Patrol Chief over secret Facebook group
By Dept. of Homeland Security - https://web.archive.org/web/20170501112314/https://www.cbp.gov/about/leadership-organization/executive-assistant-commissioners-offices/acting-chief-united-states-border-patrol, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61568412

In a letter Thursday to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, 33 House Democrats demanded that U.S. Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost resign over her participation in a secret Facebook group in which members of the federal agency shared racist, sexist, and violent comments about migrants and members of Congress.


Early last month, ProPublica reported on a Facebook group called "I'm 10-15," which references the Border Patrol code for "aliens in custody." Created in August of 2016, the group had nearly 10,000 members who were currently or formerly employed by the Department of Homeland Security. Just days after the initial report, The Intercept's Ryan Devereaux revealed that Provost was a member of the group.

The nearly three dozen lawmakers, including Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) and Susan Wild (Penn.), charged in their letter (pdf) to McAleenan that Provost "has lost the public's confidence that she can faithfully execute the responsibilities of her position without bias or prejudice."

They wrote in part:

Ms. Provost was a willing participant in a secret Facebook group used by employees of her agency to share [contemptible] and atrocious commentary that stokes racist and xenophobic tropes that have no place in private, much less in public service. The Facebook group, originally known as "I'm 10-15," generated content that joked about migrant deaths and throwing burritos at Members of Congress, and even went so far as to make sexually violent and threatening statements about female members of Congress who came to the border to inspect the conditions at detention centers. We worry this content impugns the character of the U.S. Border Patrol as a whole.

While Provost initially publicly expressed surprise about the group, promised that employees who participated would be held accountable, and said the DHS Inspector General's Office would be investigating the matter, the letter pointed out that "conspicuously absent from her statement was an admission that she had been a member of the Facebook group for months."

"It is Ms. Provost's responsibility to discipline employees who fall under her agency's auspices, not participate in conduct unbecoming of her office," the lawmakers declared, calling on McAleenan "to follow Ms. Provost's own promise of accountability, by immediately seeking her resignation."

In a tweet announcing the letter, Pressley called Provost's participation in the group "deeply disturbing and absolutely unacceptable." She wrote that if McAleenan "has one ounce of dignity left, he'll demand her resignation immediately."

The lawmakers, in the letter, also highlighted the humanitarian crisis at the U.S. Southern border—from the forcible separation of children from their parents to the inhumane conditions in which migrants have been detained. According to the letter Thursday, "the callousness displayed in the Facebook group is matched only by the callous treatment of children detainees under Ms. Provost's watch."

"The conditions at these detention centers—which include limited access to basic hygienic needs like showers, toothpaste, and clean clothes—are not just failures of sufficient funding, they are failures of leadership," the letter continued. "These Facebook posts suggest that the culprit is not just lack of resources but a level of malice that has no place in the policing of our borders."

In addition to Pressley and Wild, the letter was also signed by Democratic Reps. Karen Bass (Calif.), Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Madeleine Dean (Penn.), Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Nanette Diaz Barragan (Calif.), Madeleine Dean (Penn.), Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.), Dwight Evans (Penn.), Ruben Gallego (Ariz.), Sylvia Garcia (Texas), Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), Deb Haaland (N.M.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.),  Barbara Lee (Calif.), Andy Levin (Mich.), Alan Lowenthal (Calif.), Ben Ray Lujan (N.M.), Tom Malinowski (N.J.), Jim McGovern (Mass.), Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), Frank Pallone (N.J.), Donald Payne Jr. (N.J.), Mark Pocan (Wis.), Bobby Rush (Ill.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Darren Soto (Fla.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Juan Vargas (Calif.), Marc Veasey (Texas), Nydia Velazquez (N.Y.), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.).

Read the full letter below:

Dear Acting Secretary McAleenan:

We, the undersigned Members of Congress, request that you immediately request the resignation of Carla Provost, Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, who has lost the public's confidence that she can faithfully execute the responsibilities of her position without bias or prejudice.

Ms. Provost was a willing participant in a secret Facebook group used by employees of her agency to share contemptable and atrocious commentary that stokes racist and xenophobic tropes that have no place in private, much less in public service. The Facebook group, originally known as "I'm 10-15," generated content that joked about migrant deaths and throwing burritos at Members of Congress, and even went so far as to make sexually violent and threatening statements about female members of Congress who came to the border to inspect the conditions at detention centers. We worry this content impugns the character of the U.S. Border Patrol as a whole.

Earlier this month, Ms. Provost expressed surprise about the Facebook group at issue and publicly stated, "[t]hese posts are completely inappropriate and contrary to the honor and integrity I see—and expect—from our agents day in and day out." She also promised that "[a]ny employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable." At that same time, she stated that she had alerted the DHS Inspector General's Office and an investigation would be launched. Conspicuously absent from her statement was an admission that she had been a member of the Facebook group for months—as evidenced by her comments on a particular post questioning her ascent to Chief—or an explanation as to why she hadn't already alerted DHS of the Facebook group.

As Chief of U.S. Border Patrol it is Ms. Provost's responsibility to discipline employees who fall under her agency's auspices, not participate in conduct unbecoming of her office. It appears that to date CBP employees have only received cease and desist letters or been placed on administrative duties pending investigation—and only after the Facebook group came to light through news reports.

For the avoidance of any doubt, the callousness displayed in the Facebook group is matched only by the callous treatment of children detainees under Ms. Provost's watch. The conditions at these detention centers—which include limited access to basic hygienic needs like showers, toothpaste, and clean clothes—are not just failures of sufficient funding, they are failures of leadership. These Facebook posts suggest that the culprit is not just lack of resources but a level of malice that has no place in the policing of our borders.

As Members of Congress, we are committed to ensuring that those who occupy top positions in federal government are held to the highest standards. This is especially true of the Chief of U.S. Border Patrol, at a time when conditions at our southern border have reached a crisis point. As such, we urge you to follow Ms. Provost's own promise of accountability, by immediately seeking her resignation.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.