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CBP fires four, suspends dozens over racist, violent Facebook groups

CBP said four employees were removed from service and 38 were suspended without pay after an investigation of inappropriate social media activity.
Image: A woman who is seeking asylum has her fingerprints taken by a U.S. Customs and Border patrol officer at a pedestrian port of entry from Mexico to the United States, in McAllen, Texas, May 10, 2017.
A U.S. Customs and Border patrol officer fingerprints a woman who is seeking asylum at a pedestrian port of entry from Mexico to the United States, in McAllen, Texas, on May 10, 2017.Carlos Barria / Reuters file

Customs and Border Protection fired four employees and suspended more than three dozen others without pay after a year-long investigation into their involvement in Facebook groups featuring violent, sexist and racist posts against migrants and Latino members of Congress.

CBP said in a statement to NBC News on Friday that after an investigation into 138 cases of “inappropriate social media activity,” four employees were removed from service, 38 were suspended without pay, 33 were disciplined with reprimands or counseling and 63 of the allegations were unsubstantiated. The Los Angeles Times first reported news of the firings on Thursday.

As of July 15, six of the cases remain open, CBP said in the statement.

A year ago, officials initially announced 70 current and former CBP employees were under investigation for participating in a secret Facebook group in which users joked about dead migrants and made sexist, derogatory comments about Latino lawmakers.

The group, which at one point had roughly 9,500 members, shared comments about member of Congress, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, ProPublica reported last year. The group was called “I’m 10-15," the code used by Border Patrol for migrants in custody.

“Customs and Border Protection’s internal investigation into the Facebook group that featured violent, racist, and sexist posts is not enough,” Escobar told NBC News on Friday. “The secret Facebook group mocked the trauma and death of migrants, and as a member of Congress targeted by the group, I never received the results of their findings. CBP must continue to investigate the situation and determine why group members never reported these hateful attacks.”

Ocasio-Cortez did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A CBP spokesperson confirmed the data in their statement represented investigations related to Facebook pages revealed last year.

Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said in a statement to NBC News, for "far too long, there has been a rancid culture and systemic problems within Customs and Border Protection."

"Firing four border patrol officers for racist and sexist posts against immigrants and members of Congress is a step in the right direction to demonstrate that federal law enforcement agents cannot act with impunity," he said in the statement.

Castro said the caucus would be requesting more information from the Department of Homeland Security, of which CBP is a part of, on why "so few individuals were terminated and held fully accountable."