Democrats are calling for the firing of Border Patrol agents who posted vulgar images of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and joked about migrant deaths with members of a secret Facebook group. Calls for their termination are not only right but should be just the first step in cleaning up this agency, which clearly needs a deep investigation into the culture that employed these agents.
The investigative journalism site ProPublica obtained information and screenshots from the Facebook group, called "10-15," which is Border Patrol code for "aliens in custody." Populated by current and former Border Patrol personnel, it presents a culture of bigotry, misogyny and outright disregard for the dignity and value of human life.
Postings included jokes about the deaths of migrants — "floaters," one post called two Rio Grande drowning victims — including children. In response to news of the death of a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant while in Border Patrol custody, they posted comments like "oh, well" and "if he dies, he dies."
Particularly outrageous postings were made ahead of a border-facility inspection visit by a congressional delegation that included Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and another Latina, Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Tex. One poster suggested starting a fund for any "agent brave enough to throw a ... burrito at one of these b———."
The page also included an illustration of a smiling President Donald Trump grabbing a grimacing Ocasio-Cortez by the neck and forcing her face to his crotch. "That's right b———," reads the cutline. "The masses have spoken and today democracy won."
Lest anyone think this is a matter of a few bad apples: ProPublica reports the Facebook group has some 9,500 members, most of them current or former Border Patrol agents. The entire Border Patrol consists of fewer than 20,000 agents.
This isn't the first indication that agents in charge of dealing with migrants, who increasingly consist of parents and children, are themselves steeped in a malignant culture of intolerance and violence. Border Patrol historically has had trouble recruiting women because of the deep strain of misogyny running through the agency. Humanitarian groups claim border agents have systematically destroyed water and food supplies that were left in the desert to prevent migrant deaths.
Ocasio-Cortez and other members of the congressional delegation heard from migrants in custody who said they weren't given water and, when they complained, were verbally abused and told to drink from the toilets. When Ocasio-Cortez confronted a supervisor with this, she tweeted, "They said 'officers are under stress & act out sometimes.'"
Trump's punitive, inhumane border policies are one issue; another is the professional culture of the Border Patrol agents charged with carrying out those policies. Whether it's a few bad apples or a whole rotting barrel, Congress should seek to clean the agency out immediately with public hearings.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH