U.S. Reps. Hakeem Jefferies (D-Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, East New York, Canarsie, Mill Basin, Coney Island, parts of Queens) and Nydia M. Velazquez (D-Bushwick, Williamsburg, Red Hook, Sunset Park, parts of Queens and Manhattan) yesterday led the entire Brooklyn Congressional delegation at a press conference in Foley Square Park addressing the abhorrent comments made by United States Custom and Border Protection (CBP) Officers regarding Latinx members of Congress.
The federal lawmakers called for the accountability of the officers and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The comments that were made were both dismissive of the crisis occurring on the border and sexually threatening to elected officials, the said.
They particularly condemned comments aimed at U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Queens, the Bronx). The comments made were found in a private Facebook group that is comprised of more than 9,000 members who are either current or former CBP officers.
U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Borough Park, Kensington, parts of Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Midwood and Manhattan), who has been the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee since January 2019, said the language CBP officers expressed in the Facebook group stems from the top.
Nadler feels the President set the tone for contemptuous and racist attitudes expressed and called for the firing of all officers involved.
U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Kensington, Midwood, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Park Slope) also joined and called for the accountability of individuals who work for President Trump.
“There is no excuse for that type of behavior amongst the officers who were employed to protect the nation and is responsible for giving shelter and care to refugees. These individuals are seeking refuge in the United States of America. We send funding around the world for refugee camps and here on our own border there is the most horrific detention of humankind in this generation. We cannot abide by this. We’ve heard Donald Trump say that he sees them as an infestation but the only infestation that exists is in the Department of Homeland Security. It’s among those CBP Officers who see refugees as less than human. These individuals need to resign or be removed immediately from their post.”
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Greenpoint, Manhattan, Queens) said it was outrageous learning that these CBP Officers are routinely expressing hate, misogyny, racism and indifference to the suffering of others.
“People who express such sentiments should not be in a position of absolute power over immigrants, women, people of color. They do not represent the American we all know and love,” Maloney said.
In response to the comments made in the Facebook Group, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “9,500 CBP officers sharing memes about dead migrants and discussing violence and sexual misconduct towards members of Congress. How on earth can CBP’s culture be trusted to care for refugees humanely?”
U.S. Rep. Max Rose (D-South Brooklyn, Staten Island) attributes the behavior to the those at the top, and recalled his family coming to the United States to escape anti-Semitism.
“They came here because they saw this country as a beacon of justice, equality and humanity. We are at severe significant risk of that no longer being the case. It begins with culture. It moves to rules, regulation and laws which is our responsibility and then it ends with funding. We will not allow anyone to hide behind the veil of national security. We can preserve national security and still hold our values,” said Rose.
As far as taking the first steps for accountability, Jeffries said it is important to shine a spotlight on what has happened, who is involved and why it took three years for the Inspector General and Attorney General to act. In response to Trump calling the Custom & Border Control Officers “patriots,” Jeffries said he’s not surprised by the president excusing the egregious behavior as “he is responsible for fostering a xenophobic approach to vulnerable immigrants throughout the country and those seeking asylum.”
Nadler added that many CBP Officers are patriots but any officer who is racist and racist in doing their jobs, that’s not patriotism and it’s disqualifying.
Last May, a number of high profile individuals including Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakkan, fringe right-wing media personalities Laura Loomer, Milo Yiannopoulos and Paul Watson were all banned from Facebook for using “dangerous” language. “We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNN Business Insider.
When asked whether or not Congress would also be holding the privately-owned tech giant accountable for allowing the group to exist, Clarke replied, “There is an ongoing conversation that we’ve been having about our social media platforms and part of it is freedom of speech and striking that balance. Those CBP Officers have a First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Now, they also have a right to deal with the consequences of what they put forth in the public. They have a sacred trust with the American people to do their jobs without bias and discrimination and hatred that would put lives [as in the refugees and immigrants’ lives] in jeopardy.
Following the ProPublica report, Matthew Klein, Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Professional Responsibility for CBP, said that an investigation has been initiated by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.