When it was revealed that thousands of current and former Border Patrol agents were members of a secret Facebook group filled with racist, vulgar, and sexist content, Carla Provost, chief of the agency, was quick to respond.
“These posts are completely inappropriate and contrary to the honor and integrity I see — and expect — from our agents day in and day out,” Provost said in a statement. “Any employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable.”
For Provost, a veteran of the Border Patrol who was named head of the agency in August 2018, the group’s existence and content should have come as no surprise.
Three months after her appointment to Chief, Provost herself had posted in the group, then known as “I’m 10-15,” now archived as “America First X 2.” Provost’s comment was innocuous — a friendly response against a group member who questioned her rise to the top of the Border Patrol — but her participation in the group, which she has since left, raises serious questions.
Provost is one of several Border Patrol supervisors identified as current or former participants in the secret Facebook group, including chief patrol agents overseeing whole Border Patrol sectors; multiple patrol agents in charge of individual stations; and ranking officials in the Border Patrol’s union, who have enjoyed direct access to President Donald Trump. (It is technically possible that someone else posted in the group using the individuals’ accounts.)
The group’s existence has already generated at least two investigations from lawmakers and internal Department of Homeland Security oversight bodies.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter to the DHS Inspector General’s office last week specifically requesting that investigators examine whether Provost and Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan knew about or had previously addressed the problem of government personnel posting “violent, racist, misogynistic comments and pictures” in the “I’m 10-15” group.
“This is why I have requested a full investigation into this matter,” Thompson said in a statement, after being informed of Provost’s participation in the group.
“We need to know who in CBP leadership knew about these deplorable groups, when did they find out, and what action they took if anything.”
Customs and Border Protection, the agency that oversees the Border Patrol, did not dispute that Provost and other senior agents had commented in the group.
Provost did not respond to a request for comment. In a statement, CBP said its Office of Professional Responsibility “is investigating the material provided to CBP this week from multiple sources.”
“CBP does not tolerate misconduct on or off duty and will hold those who violate our code of conduct accountable,” the statement said.
“Several CBP employees have received cease and desist letters and several of those have been placed on administrative duties pending the results of the investigation. These posts do not reflect the core values of the Agency and do not reflect the vast majority of employees who conduct themselves professionally and honorably every day, on and off duty.”