Trump's border chief dodged a question from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on whether Border Patrol agents who made racist and sexist posts in a secret Facebook group are still in their jobs

Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-Cortez questions Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan during his testimony before the House Oversight & Reform Committee about the agency's family separation policy at the US southern border.Screenshot/C-SPAN

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez confronted Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan on Thursday about a series of sexist and racist posts in a Border Patrol Facebook group discovered earlier this month.
  • McAleenan confirmed that he had seen posts which joked about migrant deaths and depicted sexually explicit photoshopped images of Ocasio-Cortez.
  • The security official dodged questions about whether officers responsible for the posts were still on the job, saying that an "aggressive investigation" into the matter was taking place.
  • Ocasio-Cortez' exchange came just days after Trump tweeted that the lawmaker and three other progressive Democratic congresswomen should "go back" to their "corrupt" and "broken and crime infested" countries.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez confronted Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan on Thursday about a series of sexist and racist posts in a Border Patrol Facebook group discovered earlier this month.

The Facebook group, brought to light by a ProPublica investigation this month, was made up of nearly 10,000 members, including current and former Border Patrol members.

Group members posted sexually explicit photoshopped images of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and discussed throwing burritos at Latino members of Congress, screenshots of the posts obtained by ProPublica revealed.

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

McAleenan, who is also Customs and Border Protection commissioner, testified before the House Oversight & Reform Committee about the agency's policy of family separation at the US southern border amid reports of overcrowding and unsuitable conditions at border facilities.

He also addressed questions by Ocasio-Cortez about whether he had seen the vulgar posts made in the secret Border Patrol Facebook group.

"Did you see the posts mocking migrant children's deaths?" she asked.

"I did," he answered.

"Did you see the posts planning physical harm to myself and Congresswoman [Veronica] Escobar?" she continued.

"Yes," he responded, adding that he "directed an investigation within minutes of reading the article."

"Did you see the images of officers circulating photoshopped images of my violent rape?" she added.

"Yes I did," he responded.

kevin mcaleenan cbpU.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan speaks about the impact of the dramatic increase in illegal crossings that continue to occur along the Southwest during a news conference, in El PasoReuters/Jose Luis Gonzalez

McAleenan, however, did not directly answer questions about whether officers responsible for the posts are still employed by CBP, saying that an "aggressive investigation" into the matter was taking place.

"We've already put individuals on administrative duties," he said. "I don't know which ones correspond to which posts, and we've issued cease and desist orders to dozen more."

He denied that the agency's family separation policy contributed to a "dehumanizing effect" on officers.

"Enforcing the law often has emotional impacts for everybody involved, and that's something that they sign up for," he said. "We want to provide resilience services, mental health support, for anyone who needs it."

McAleenan acknowledged that the posts were "unacceptable," but said he felt it was unfair to assume that everyone in the agency or the Facebook group supported those posts.

Read more: Trump reportedly told his border chief to close the border and block migrants from entering the US - and that if he went to jail, he'd pardon him

us-mexico border fenceA child reaches through from the Mexican side of the U.S./Mexico border fence on June 24, 2018 in Sunland Park, New Mexico.Getty Images/Joe Raedle

Ocasio-Cortez has been critical of the Department of Homeland Security and said last week that she supports the abolishment of the cabinet department.

McAleenan this month defended the US Border Patrol stations that have come under fire in recent weeks, saying that there is an "extraordinary challenging situation" at the border but there was "no evidence" that children went hungry at Border Patrol stations.

Read more: Border Patrol officials reportedly forced a Honduran migrant to walk around a detention center holding a sign reading 'I like men' in Spanish

"Police station cells are not a good place for children, as I've said dozens of times publicly," he told ABC's "This Week."

On Monday, Customs and Border Protection officials announced they opened an investigation into 70 current and former employees prompted by the discovery of the Facebook group and its "inappropriate" posts.

Ocasio-Cortez' exchange comes just days after Trump tweeted that the lawmaker and three other progressive Democratic congresswomen should "go back" to their "corrupt" and "broken and crime infested" countries.
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