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For AOC, the offensive posts in the secret Facebook group of Border Patrol staff are very personal, and she wanted to know what the head of Homeland Security was doing about it.
During a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez probed Kevin McAleenan about the photoshopped images of her — one where she's engaging in oral sex with a detained migrant and an illustration of the president forcing her head into his crotch — that were posted in the recently revealed group of some 9,500 Border Patrol staff.
"Did you see the images of officers circulating photoshopped images of my violent rape?" Ocasio-Cortez asked.
He said he had.
The offensive AOC posts were among a trove of racist and sexist “jokes” found on the Facebook site called “I’m 10-15,” including some mocking migrant children’s deaths and threatening physical harm to another congresswoman, Rep. Veronica Escobar.
AOC asked McAleenan if he’d seen these other disturbing posts and images, and how thousands of CBP staff could have been involved in the group for so long, without leadership knowing about the offensive photos and comments in circulation.
The awkward exchange took place weeks after a ProPublica report revealed at least 9,500 former and current Border Patrol agents were involved in the group, established about two years ago.
McAleenan replied to Ocasio-Cortez saying he'd seen the posts and launched an investigation within minutes of learning about the officers’ dishonorable conduct.
But she pressed: Considering these agents are responsible for the safety of migrant women and children, she wanted to know if the ones who circulated the violent images are still on the job today. McAleenan couldn’t say exactly. He could only reiterate there’s an “aggressive investigation” underway looking into the agents who violated agency conduct.
He added that Homeland Security has already put officers on administrative duties as a form of punishment, but he didn’t know which agents correspond with which posts.
Then came a bold question by AOC: whether the Trump administration’s migrant family separation policy contributed to a “dehumanizing culture” within Customs and Border Protection.
McAleenan balked, saying, “We do not have a dehumanizing culture at CBP. This is an agency that rescues 4,000 people a year.”
The DHS chief agreed that the Facebook posts were “unacceptable,” but then he downplayed the extent of the problem: “I don’t think it’s fair to apply them to the entire organization or that even the members of that group believed or supported those posts," he said.
Cover: United States Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Democrat of New York) listens during the House Committee on Financial Services hearing regarding Facebooks new crypto currency Libra on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., U.S. on July 17, 2019. Credit: Stefani Reynolds / CNP | usage worldwide Photo by: Stefani Reynolds/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images