Immigrant and civil rights advocates have long warned of the extremism within federal immigration agencies. That extremism showed its ugly face this past weekend, when an official Twitter account for the West Texas division of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) shared or liked a slew of right-wing propaganda, including anti-immigrant tweets by noted white supremacist Stephen Miller.
Other tweets shared by @CBPWestTexas were authored by a Twitter user whose messages are frequently lifted up by anti-immigrant opponents. One other tweet from a random user contained a homophobic slur targeting Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay cabinet secretary in U.S. history.
RELATED STORY: Just two border agents were fired for their participation in racist Facebook group, House probe says
The likely explanation for the tweets is that the employee behind the account forgot to switch over to their personal account after getting excited about the Miller tweets and Buttigieg slur. The fact that the official account was sharing these messages came to the attention of CBP commissioner Chris Magnus following outraged tweets from Washington Office on Latin America Defense Oversight Program’s Adam Isacson and others.
“Looks like the person running @CBPWestTexas forgot to log off of the work account and started using it like their personal account,” tweeted American Immigration Council’s Aaron Reichlin-Melnick. “The ‘likes’ are a dead giveaway—anti-Biden stuff, playground anti-gay insults against Buttigieg, etc… Will likely lead to disciplinary action.” Screenshots of the tweets can be seen below:
In an official response, Magnus called the unauthorized messages “totally unacceptable and disappointing,” saying that the content would be removed, the account would be deactivated, and that “the Office of Professional Responsibility will investigate. This must not happen again.” The account appeared to be deactivated for a short time on Sunday, before going back up with an all-caps message in the profile section stating that “THIS ACCOUNT IS IN THE PROCESS OF ARCHIVING AND DEACTIVATION.” The offensive messages had been removed.
Well, that’s a start, but the problem isn’t just the tweets, it's the people behind the account, and the racist and violent climate at federal immigration agencies like CBP. None of this should come as any surprise, considering how many border agents participated in a secret Facebook group where posters shared violent, racist, and just plain vile content, including a post mocking an unaccompanied child who died alone while in U.S. custody.
“Documents and information obtained by the committee show that CBP determined that 60 Border Patrol agents engaged in misconduct related to secret Facebook groups during the Trump administration, and were subject to discipline,” the House Oversight and Reform Committee said in October. But the committee said in its report that CBP “significantly reduced the punishments imposed on most of these agents.” Just two were fired, lawmakers said.
In her tweet responding to the screenshots, El Paso Rep. Veronica Escobar wrote that “the person running the @CBPWestTexas media account has absolutely no business being in public service. Especially if allowed to carry a gun and a badge.” Escobar herself was a target of the offensive Facebook group posters, yet CBP under the previous administration blocked key information from her and other congressional investigators, including who was behind the gross posts or even the names of the few agents who were ultimately disciplined for their participation in the group, ProPublica reported.
She slammed the defiance at the time. “More than a year after the existence of the group was reported, CBP continues to obstruct a congressional investigation into the results of the agency’s findings, blatantly shielding agents that have dehumanized immigrants and fostered a culture of cruelty and violence,” she said according to ProPublica. These agents and other employees do it because they can get away with it, and, as history has shown, have often been shielded by superiors at the agency.
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