- 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.
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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.
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.
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 “dehumanising 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.
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.
“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.