By ASTRID GALVAN Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) — The head of the U.S. Border Patrol said Wednesday that she joined a Facebook group whose members mocked migrants and lawmakers so she could read what her personnel thought about her, and said she knew little about the group.
Chief Carla Provost said during a congressional subcommittee hearing in Washington that she logged on to Facebook very rarely and that she immediately reported her membership in the group to an oversight division of U.S. Customs and Border Protection after she realized she was a member.
Provost earlier this month had issued a statement condemning the posts without saying that she was a member.
Sixty-two current and eight former Border Patrol employees are being investigated for their role in the “I’m 10-15” Facebook group, where agents questioned the authenticity of images of a migrant father and child dead in a river. They also posted crude and doctored images of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez purporting to perform a sex act on President Donald Trump.
Reports later revealed Provost was a member of the group, although she did not confirm those reports until her congressional testimony.
She said during the hearing that she handed over her login and password to Custom and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility, adding that she very rarely used her Facebook account and only did so to stay in touch with friends and colleagues who live out of town.
Provost said she once commented in the group on a post about a question from the TV show “Jeopardy” because her agents were talking about her in that post, Provost said. She was the subject of the Jeopardy question.
“I didn’t even know at the time what group I was on,” she said.
Provost said she joined the secret group in 2017 at the invitation of a colleague who told her agents were discussing her performance in her role at the time of acting chief. She said she would search her name in Facebook and read posts about herself without noticing whether the posts were in any specific group.
“I am as outraged as everyone else when it comes to the statements that were made on that page,” Provost said.
The congressional hearing also focused on Border Patrol funding and the ongoing high number of families and children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Border Patrol is dealing with a massive increase in the number of families and children who cross into the U.S. without parents or legal guardians, resulting in strained resources and dangerously overcrowded border detention facilities.
Five children have died in Border Patrol custody since December.
Some committee members criticized Provost, questioning whether the Border Patrol has an agency-wide culture of abusive behavior.
“A few bad apples are not representative of the organization,” Provost responded.
“You’ve got a long way to go now to rebuild your reputation to the average person in this country,” said Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat from Maryland.