Border Patrol Chief who was member of secret Facebook group said she didn't realize 'highly offensive' posts were being shared until ProPublica report

CBP Chief Carla ProvostUnited States Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost testifies before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration on &quotThe Humanitarian and Security Crisis at the Southern Border&quot on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 8, 2019.Reuters/Aaron P. Bernstein

  • Border Patrol chief Carla Provost told a House committee that she had been a member of a Facebook group - that shared offensive posts with other border patrol agents - since 2017 in order to monitor how she was "representing [her] workforce."
  • "July 1st was the first time that I saw those highly offensive and absolutely unacceptable posts when I saw them in the ProPublica report," Provost said during the hearing.
  • The Associated Press reported that 62 current and eight former Border Patrol employees are being investigated for their participation in the Facebook group.
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Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost confirmed in a hearing on Wednesday that she was a member of a secret Facebook group, where racist, sexist, and violent images had been shared, in order to monitor how she was "representing [her] workforce."

According to a July report from The Intercept, she was a member of the Facebook group titled "I'm 10-15," which is code for "alien in custody."

During the hearing Provost said that she joined Facebook in 2016, was invited to join the Facebook group sometime in 2017, but has rarely used Facebook since then.

"They had mentioned to me that, in my acting role as chief at that time, that some of the agents were discussing how I was doing, and it was something I was certainly interested in knowing, how I am representing my workforce," Provost said before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. "I didn't think anything of it at the time."

Provost told the subcommittee that she "self-reported" to the Customs and Border Protection's Office of Personality Responsibility that she was a part of the group after the racist posts came to light in a ProPublica report published on July 1. An assessment done by the CBP Office of Responsibility found that she visited Facebook a total of nine times from June 2018 to June 2019.

"July 1st was the first time that I saw those highly offensive and absolutely unacceptable posts, when I saw them in the ProPublica report," Provost said during the hearing. "As soon as I saw them, I made sure I put an announcement out to the workforce condemning the actions of those individuals. It is completely unacceptable and not representative of the Border Patrol as a whole."

Posts in the Facebook group included a crudely Photoshopped image of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez of New York performing oral sex on President Donald Trump. Another post questioned the authenticity of a photo of a father and daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande river, saying they have "never seen floaters so clean."

Read more: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says the US border patrol has a 'violent culture' after agents were found trashing her and degrading migrants in a secret Facebook group

In response to a question from Subcommittee Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, a Democrat from California, about previous issues with social media posts, Provost said the Office of Personality Responsibility had previously put out a memo when the agency "started seeing some issues when it came to social media."

"These were not specific to this site; I do not know what sites they were specific to," Provost said, "but there were some social media issues."

Josiah Heyman, director of the Center for Inter-American and Border Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso, was critical of Provost's late knowledge of the posts. "She either missed it from failure to effectively do her job or actively avoided thinking about it," Heyman told The Washington Post.

Provost said she was "as outraged as everyone else when it comes to the statements that were made on that page." She said Border Patrol has issued cease-and-desist letters to the individuals who made the posts or commented on them and placed some agents on administrative duties while the investigation is on-going.

The Associated Press reported that 62 current and eight former Border Patrol employees are being investigated for their participation in the Facebook group.

"The few bad apples in my organization, we don't want as well, because they do not represent my men and women, my workforce of 20,000 who are out there risking their lives to protect this country," Provost said.

"There are bad doctors; there are bad nurses; there are bad teachers, but we don't vilify the entire group of those individuals," Provost said. "We need to take action on those who have violated our standards of conduct, and we need to hold them accountable, and we will do that."

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