Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is spending its final days under the Trump administration continuing to protect agents who were part of the racist and vile Facebook group exposed by ProPublica a year and a half ago. House Oversight and Reform Chair Carolyn Maloney said this week that the agency has continued to fail to fully comply with a subpoena demanding agency documents.
“The committee remains extremely concerned by the lengths to which the Trump administration is going—even in its final days—to place the interests of employees who made racist and sexually depraved posts ahead of the wellbeing of the children and families they interact with every day,” Maloney wrote to Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan. Her office warned that because the subpoena is now expired, “a new subpoena would be issued this Congress if CBP continues to refuse to comply.”
ProPublica had reported that CBP had been refusing to provide probe findings to congressional investigators including who was behind the gross posts, or even the names of the few agents who were disciplined for their participation in this group where members mocked the death of a teenaged boy in the agency’s custody in 2019, among many other vile and sickening acts. Of the nearly 140 employees who were ultimately investigated, only a handful were fired.
An internal document revealed by the House Oversight Committee also showed the agency in fact negotiated a deal to protect agents who had been recommended for termination. “In one case, an employee who was recommended for removal had their penalty reduced to a seven-day suspension,” Maloney said at the time.
“CBP concealed the identities of employees who were disciplined, the specific abuses they committed, their roles and responsibilities, and other critical information,” she slammed in her letter to Morgan this week. “As a result, the committee is unable to determine who was fired, who was suspended, who had their punishments reduced or eliminated entirely and why, and whether any of these employees continue to work with immigrant children or families.”
“There is no legitimate basis for CBP’s position that Congress may not know the identity of federal employees—paid with taxpayer funds—who engage in abuses for which they are fired, suspended, or otherwise disciplined,” she continued. She’s absolutely correct, and the fact is that federal immigration agencies like CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have felt unaccountable to no one in the Trump era.
That must change when the new administration takes office next week. In his immigration plan released during this campaign, President-elect Joe Biden said that he’ll “increase resources for training and demand transparency in and independent oversight over ICE and CBP’s activities. Under a Biden administration, there will be responsible, Senate-confirmed professionals leading these agencies, and they will answer directly to the president.”
But as aggressive as CBP has been, the Biden administration must be as aggressive—and then double that—in demanding accountability. Trump is continuing to rile up the agency by visiting the border as his administration is set to end in just a few days—and as his supporters, egged on by him, ransacked the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
“This final calling card from Trump should be a wake up call for President-elect Biden to end CBP’s role in detention and in processing of people seeking asylum, limit CBP’s use of force, and create new mechanisms to ensure that CBP’s abuses are promptly investigated,” American Civil Liberties Union Director of Border Strategies Jonathan Blazer said in a statement received by Daily Kos. “We need a reckoning on the role and power of CBP, now.”