16 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the event type is “Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct”

End of July 2023

Newsite Government Executive reported that the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General Joseph Cuffari agreed to pay a former official $1.17 million in a settlement agreement after allegedly firing her in retaliation for her whistleblower claims.  

Jennifer Costello is a former deputy who worked for the Department of Homeland Security under Inspector General Joseph Cuffari. When Costello discovered that Cufarri had delayed a report into the Trump administration’s family separation policy at the southern border, Costello brought forth complaints to Congress and the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency in 2019. 

Then, Cuffari launched a third-party investigation into Costello and two of her colleagues, resulting in a $1.4 million cost. The investigation concluded that she had engaged in divisive and unprofessional behavior, which Costello argued was a “farce” launched in retaliation for her claims. She was fired in June 2020. 

According to the official settlement, the Inspector General’s Office did not admit to any guilt or wrongdoing. Instead, Costello’s firing was overturned, and she is now formally listed as an employee who resigned from the DHS. Cufarri continues to push back against allegations that he is an ‘unethical’ employee. He launched a lawsuit against the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency for investigating the IG’s office. This lawsuit was dismissed on November 2nd, 2023 after a judge deemed Cufarri failed to prove that the Council’s investigation was harassment. Despite the investigation, he continues to serve as the Inspector General for the DHS.

Katz, Eric. “DHS Inspector General Pays $1.2M Settlement to Former Deputy.” Government Executive, July 27, 2023. https://www.govexec.com/management/2023/07/dhs-inspector-general-pays-12m-settlement-former-deputy/388892/.


Agency(ies): DHS

Event Type(s): Civil Liberties or Privacy Infringement, Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with Congressional Oversight Committees, Under DHS Review

Victim Classification: Advocate or Humanitarian Worker

February 16,2023

On February 16, 2023  an open letter to Border Patrol was published with contributions from 16 humanitarian organizations denouncing Border Patrol’s response to a medical emergency in a remote area of the Southern Arizona borderlands. As documented by the volunteer search and rescue team involved in the case, the family of a Guatemalan migrant named Martín, made a distress call to a humanitarian aid group that works with migrants, as he needed medical assistance in the wilderness area of the Baboquivari Mountains, lying on the Tohono O’odham Reservation. Martín had been left behind by the group he was traveling with due to chest pains not allowing him to continue. The humanitarian group alerted Border Patrol and 911 dispatchers of Martín’s exact coordinates, personal phone number, and copy of his ID. All 911 calls were sent to Border Patrol, which were unresponsive. Border Patrol was unresponsive for three days during the search for Martín. After the Border Patrol did not respond, another humanitarian aid group,  Frontera Aid Collective (FAC), made various calls to law enforcement in Pima County, Arizona, near Martín’s location.

 The calls were then transferred to the “Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue Unit (BORSTAR), who refused to initiate a rescue. As cited in the open letter, “one dispatcher even laughed at the callers.” In response to Border Patrol’s inaction, Frontera Aid Collective and Tucson Samaritans volunteers organized a life-threatening rescue mission to the mountains. During this time, over 40 emergency calls from various groups were made to Border Patrol. Martín, himself, called 911 11 times over the course of 3 days and even sighted helicopters that did not offer help. Once the humanitarian groups were able to locate him, they assisted him down the mountain. After “he was given minimal medical evaluation and treatment by agents who spoke and understood very little of his language, at the bottom of the mountain, he was deported to Nogales, Sonora.”

Several Organizations. “Open Letter to US Border Patrol,” February 2023. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1AJdxfSZz9nYtEwZOtTIzVrrEgEYP5R-wq6xBjkPqMTw/edit?usp=embed_facebook.

Sector(s): Border Patrol

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Corruption, Denial of Access to Asylum, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Disregard of Public Health, Endangerment, Inappropriate Deportation, Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Misuse of Intelligence Capability, Return of Vulnerable Individuals

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Guatemala, Medical Condition

December 6, 2022

After President Biden told a Fox News reporter that he is not visiting the border “because there are more important things going on,” an unnamed Border Patrol agent texted the conservative Daily Caller: “MORE IMPORTANT THINGS? This is HIS disaster, he created this catastrophe. The border crisis is a total breach of National Security. Give me a f—ing break…I can’t wait for this clown to be out of office.”

— Taer, Jennie. “‘Give Me A F***ing Break’: Border Agents Rip Biden For Saying ‘There Are More Important Things’ Than Visiting Border.” Daily Caller. Accessed February 19, 2023. <https://dailycaller.com/2022/12/06/border-biden-immigration-mexico/>.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

December 2, 2022

An ACLU Texas complaint submitted to DHS leadership, shared and reported by the Texas Tribune, found that Border Patrol collaboration made possible 91 Texas state police “trespassing” arrests of migrants between late July and late August 2022. Border Patrol agents, the complaint reported, played a role in one quarter of the 368 migrant arrests that Texas’s Department of Public Security carried out during this period. The controversial arrests were part of “Operation Lone Star” (OLS), a state-government border crackdown ordered by Gov. Greg Abbott (R), an outspoken critic of the Biden administration’s border and migration policies.

“Extrapolating from this data, Border Patrol collusion is likely responsible for hundreds of arrests in Texas’ unlawful, discriminatory, and anti-immigrant trespass arrest system,” the ACLU complaint read.

To date, Texas has arrested more than 5,000 primarily Latinx individuals on state misdemeanor criminal trespass charges under OLS. The state has funneled these individuals into a separate criminal prosecution and detention system riddled with civil rights violations, including failure to appoint counsel and failure to timely file charges.

In July 2022, the Texas Tribune and ProPublica revealed that the Department of Justice was “seeking to review whether Operation Lone Star violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin by institutions receiving federal funding.”

Of the 91 Border Patrol-aided arrests in the ACLU complaint:

  • Border Patrol agents were the initial arresting or apprehending party in 35 cases. “Border Patrol effectuated the arrest when DPS [Texas state Department of Public Safety] was not even present and nevertheless turned the individual over to a DPS officer for state misdemeanor trespass rather than process the individual for immigration purposes.”
  • Border Patrol agents and Texas DPS officers were both present for the arrest in 41 arrests. “Instead of Border Patrol taking the individuals into CBP custody for immigration processing, Border Patrol prioritized arrests under Operation Lone Star for misdemeanor trespass—ensuring eligible individuals were instead channeled into the OLS trespass arrest system.”
  • In 15 cases, Border Patrol provided surveillance information to Texas DPS that enabled Texas police to arrest the migrants. “This includes information from Border Patrol helicopter surveillance, drone, and remote cameras.”

The complaint noted that it appears to violate CBP policy for Border Patrol agents, who are federal government personnel, to collude with a state program that has imprisoned thousands of migrants—including asylum seekers—for months in specially designated Texas jails. It recalled an October 2021 interview with Texas Monthly in which Border Patrol Chief Raúl Ortiz called the OLS trespass arrest system “a tremendous concern,” adding, “I really would prefer to see border security left to the border-security experts.”

Texas law does not give Border Patrol agents the authority to arrest people for state misdemeanor charges (and most felony charges). In November 15, 2022 testimony before the Texas State Senate Committee on Border Security, the chief of Border Patrol’s Laredo Sector, Carl Landrum, asked legislators to make a “slight adjustment” to the Texas Penal Code that would allow Border Patrol agents “to arrest and assist in the prosecution of all state felonies and, he said, ‘some misdemeanors,’” the Texas Observer reported in February 2023.

“It is not clear whether the Laredo sector leadership’s position on expanding Texas state law to authorize felony arrests by Border Patrol under state law is endorsed by Border Patrol leadership or consistent with Border Patrol policy,” the ACLU Texas complaint read.

Finding that “Border Patrol’s extensive collusion with DPS in OLS trespass arrests is deeply troubling,” the ACLU Texas complaint called for “investigation by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the Customs and Border Protection Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).”

— Huddleston, Kathryn, Bernardo Cruz, Savannah Kumar, and Adriana Piñon. “Border Patrol Collusion in Texas Migrant Arrest Program under ‘Operation Lone Star’—Urgent Need for Immediate End to Collusion.” American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, December 2, 2022. <https://static.texastribune.org/media/files/c7b90d91cada0fd9268a2cb7e78b357a/ACLUTX_DHS_Complaint_OLS.pdf>.

— McCullough, Jolie. “Feds Often Hand Migrants over to State Police Rather than Process Immigration Claims, Complaint Says.” The Texas Tribune, December 2, 2022. <https://www.texastribune.org/2022/12/02/texas-migrant-arrests-border-patrol/>.

—Trevizo, Perla. “Justice Department Is Investigating Texas’ Operation Lone Star for Alleged Civil Rights Violations.” The Texas Tribune, July 6, 2022. <https://www.texastribune.org/2022/07/06/operation-lone-star-doj-investigation-abbott/>.

— McCullough, Jolie. “Texas’ Border Operation Is Meant to Stop Cartels and Smugglers. More Often, It Arrests Migrants for Misdemeanor Trespassing.” The Texas Tribune, April 4, 2022. <https://www.texastribune.org/2022/04/04/texas-border-operation-imprisons-thousands-accused-only-of-trespassing/>.

— Nelsen, Aaron. “Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz on the Crisis in Texas and Why Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star Concerns Him.” Texas Monthly, October 21, 2021. <https://www.texasmonthly.com/news-politics/raul-ortiz-border-patrol-texas/>.

— Griswold, Niki. “Border Patrol Requests Change to Texas Penal Code to Allow Agents to Enforce State Law.” Austin American-Statesman. November 16, 2022. <https://www.statesman.com/story/news/politics/state/2022/11/16/border-patrol-asks-texas-to-allow-agents-to-enforce-state-law/69639080007/>.

— Buch, Jason. “The Border Patrol’s Power Grab.” The Texas Observer, February 13, 2023. <https://www.texasobserver.org/the-border-patrols-gross-power-grab/>.

Sector(s): Del Rio, Laredo

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Texas State Police

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct, Racial Discrimination or Profiling

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

September 10, 2022

CBP stopped updating its “@CBPWestTexas” Twitter account after an unidentified employee used it to share former Trump advisor Stephen Miller’s view that “Biden’s eradication of our border means we are no longer a Republic,” and to issue “likes” to homophobic tweets.

“The tweets do not reflect the values of this administration and our work to rebuild a humane, orderly and secure immigration system,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a statement.

— “Border Patrol halts tweets from agency’s West Texas region” (United States: Associated Press, September 11, 2022) <https://apnews.com/article/biden-texas-donald-trump-immigration-pete-buttigieg-72a4b44c5a50f7917f9ea925b46472da>.

Screen capture of CBP West Texas @CBPWestTexas Twitter account, September 10, 2022 <https://twitter.com/CBPWestTexas/>.

CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus @CBPChrisMagnus on Twitter (September 10, 2022) <https://twitter.com/CBPChrisMagnus/status/1568780563099664388>.

Sector(s): El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct

Last Known Accountability Status: Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification:

September 1, 2022

“The Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector has a new challenge coin that features concertina wire around the Border Patrol’s badge,” wrote Pedro Rios, of the American Friends Service Committee’s U.S.-Mexico Border Program, at the San Diego Union-Tribune. “In its description on its website, it says the concertina wire symbolizes ‘a new way of thinking about border security in San Diego.’” Rios added, “That the Border Patrol would promote coils of razor-sharp wires made for a battlefield as its emblem to display its philosophy is concerning.”

On September 3, CBP removed the challenge coin from the Border Patrol Sector’s website. “That challenge coin is not in keeping with the agency’s mission and values, and we are reviewing the process by which it was produced and displayed on our website,” read a statement from CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus.

The “challenge coins” issue had come up earlier in 2022, when reports emerged of unofficial coins being sold online with defiant messages, some celebrating a controversial incident involving mounted Border Patrol agents and Haitian migrants in September 2021.

— Pedro Rios, “The Border Patrol emblem promotes razor-sharp wires made for a battlefield. Why is it allowed?” (San Diego: San Diego Union-Tribune, September 1, 2022) <https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/community-voices-project/story/2022-09-01/the-border-patrol-emblem-promotes-coils-of-razor-sharp-wires-made-for-a-battlefield>.

— Pedro Rios @Pedroconsafos on Twitter, September 3, 2022 <https://twitter.com/Pedroconsafos/status/1566199248818843648>.

Internet Archive copy of “San Diego Sector California” (Washington: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, July 25, 2022) <https://web.archive.org/web/20220827001221/https://www.cbp.gov/border-security/along-us-borders/border-patrol-sectors/san-diego-sector-california>.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

June 15, 2022

The Miami Herald and the Los Angeles Times reported on Border Patrol “challenge coins,” available on eBay and elsewhere, depicting with pride the September 2021 Del Rio incident in which mounted agents charged at Haitian migrants on the banks of the Rio Grande.

“Whipping ass since 1924” and “Haitian Invasion,” reads one coin rendering the iconic September 2021 photo of a Border Patrol agent on horseback grabbing a Haitian migrant’s shirt.

These are not official items, and the coins’ tie to active-duty agents remains unclear. “These coins anger me because the hateful images on them have no place in a professional law enforcement agency,” said CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus.

CBP was investigating the coins’ origin and told the Los Angeles Times that it will send cease-and-desist letters “to vendors who produce unauthorized challenge coins using a CBP trademarked brand.”

Andy Christiansen, a Utah-based vendor, told National Public Radio “that he still has about 20 coins left and intends on putting them up for sale again.” Christiansen said he did not produce the coins: he purchased them as part of a box of coins that was lost or damaged in shipping and put up for auction. Christiansen said that his stock was “flying off the shelf” and that one coin’s auction price rose to $500.

— Michael Wilner, Jacqueline Charles, “Border Patrol Investigating Coin Memorializing Treatment of Haitian Migrants in del Rio” (Miami: The Miami Herald, June 15, 2022) https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article262498842.html.

— Hamed Aleaziz, “Coins Depicting Border Patrol Agent Grabbing Haitian Migrant Trigger Investigation” (Los Angeles: The Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2022) https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-06-16/coins-border-patrol-haitian-immigrants.

— Jaclyn Diaz, “Ebay Seller Says Coins Depicting Haitian Migrant Incident at Border May Be Sold Again” (National Public Radio, June 20, 2022) https://www.npr.org/2022/06/17/1105901312/ebay-seller-challenge-coins-border-patrol-horseback-haiti-migrants-mexico.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct, Unethical Off-Duty Behavior

Last Known Accountability Status: Under OPR Investigation

Victim Classification:

April 7, 2022

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) obtained documents from the DHS Office of Inspector-General (OIG) indicating that the agency’s independent watchdog has been suppressing, delaying, and watering down information about serious patterns of sexual harassment and domestic abuse within the Department’s law enforcement agencies.

The POGO report, “Protecting the Predators at DHS,” offers some shocking findings, as does the New York Times’s April 7 coverage of the report. They include:

  • A 2018 OIG survey found that more than 10,000 CBP, ICE, Secret Service, and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees had experienced sexual harassment or sexual misconduct at work. That is more than a third of the 28,000 survey respondents. Of these, 78 percent said they did not report the incident, often out of a belief that doing so would derail their careers. Examples included “surreptitious videotaping in bathrooms, unwelcome sexual advances and inappropriate sexual comments.” The survey was part of an OIG report for which fieldwork ended two and a half years ago, in October 2019—but the report had still not seen the light of day.
  • Of 1,800 sexual harassment cases within the Department, 445 were at ICE and 382 were at CBP.
  • The unpublished OIG report found that DHS agencies paid 21 employees nearly $1 million in settlements from sexual harassment-related complaints over six years, but there are few records of any investigations or disciplinary actions against the aggressors. One victim received a $255,000 payout. Senior officials at the OIG objected to mentioning these settlements in the as-yet unpublished report.
  • The unpublished OIG report notes that “women made up only 5 percent of CBP’s Border Patrol workforce,” well below the federal law enforcement average of 15 percent.
  • Another OIG report, published in 2020, covered DHS law-enforcement personnel found to have committed domestic violence when off duty. Inspector-General Joseph Cuffari and his staff pushed to withhold many key findings that had appeared in this report’s earlier drafts. Initially, the report found that agents who committed domestic abuse received “little to no discipline.” In an internal memo, Cuffari ordered that removed, calling it “second-guessing D.H.S. disciplinary decisions without full facts.” This language is troubling, as second-guessing disciplinary decisions is something that inspectors-general are often compelled to do.
  • Employing law enforcement personnel with a demonstrated propensity for abusing domestic partners and family members “raises questions about someone’s fitness for the job if they abuse someone they have committed their life to,” James Wong, a former CBP deputy assistant commissioner for internal affairs, told POGO. “How are they going to treat a total stranger they have no relationship with [like a migrant]? Who’s going to stop them?” The OIG report’s draft had raised concerns that allowing these agents to keep their weapons “put[s] victims and the public at risk of further violence,” but Cuffari ordered that language removed for risk of “appearing biased.”

POGO, a non-governmental watchdog group, has published past reports and allegations critical of Cuffari, whom Donald Trump named to the DHS Inspector-General post in 2019. “The suppressed DHS watchdog reports on sexual misconduct and domestic violence are part of a pattern where Cuffari has appeared unwilling to oversee his department as an independent watchdog,” POGO’s report contends. “Sadly, Cuffari himself has an undeniable pattern of removing significant facts and evidence from major reports. As a result of this pattern, his independence and impartiality are in question.”

“Only hours after the story appeared,” POGO notes, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “announced he had become ‘aware of draft unpublished reports from the Office of the Inspector General that underscore the need for immediate action.’ Mayorkas announced the creation of a ‘working group’ to ‘conduct a 45-day review of employee misconduct discipline processes currently in effect throughout DHS.'”

On April 26, 2022, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to Inspector-General Cuffari voicing concern about POGO’s findings (original link). “Sexual harassment and misconduct in agency ranks always demand immediate action,” reads the letter, which includes a list of questions to be answered by May 17, 2022. “Any efforts by an OIG to obscure or downplay the seriousness or pervasiveness of the issue, or to improperly delay releasing evidence of misconduct, are inappropriate.”

Cuffari responded to the senators with a May 13 letter blaming “senior DHS OIG officials who preceded me,” “the intransigence of some inspectors,” and OIG staff withholding information from him. (original link). The Inspector-General insisted that the withheld reports were not up to established standards, but the letter did not clearly explain why quality improvements would be delayed for years for reports with such striking and significant findings.

“This is not the response of someone committed to meeting the statutory mandate for inspectors general,” read a Twitter thread from POGO’s director of public policy, Liz Hempowicz. “I would never have written this,” Gordon Heddell, a former Defense Department inspector-general, said of the letter in a June 16 New York Times article. “To me, what he’s saying is, ‘I’m leading a very dysfunctional office.’”

On June 16, DHS announced an effort to reform employee misconduct discipline processes. “When Secretary Mayorkas was made aware of the [unpublished draft OIG sexual harassment] report, he immediately launched a 45-day review into Department-wide employee misconduct discipline processes,” the Department’s statement reads (original link). It continues, “Centralizing disciplinary processes will ensure that allegations of serious misconduct are handled by a dedicated group of well-trained individuals, who are not the employees’ immediate supervisors, at each DHS component agency.”

“The announced reforms underscore a deepening rift between the Homeland Security Department and its inspector general,” the New York Times reported on June 16. “While Mr. Mayorkas has taken steps to address the allegations in the reports, Mr. Cuffari and other senior officials in the inspector general’s office have instead either downplayed the significance of the findings or fiercely defended their removal.”

— Adam Zagorin, Nick Schwellenbach, Protecting the Predators at DHS (Washington: Project on Government Oversight, April 7, 2022) https://www.pogo.org/investigation/2022/04/protecting-the-predators-at-dhs/.

— Chris Cameron, “Homeland Security Watchdog Omitted Damaging Findings From Reports” (New York, The New York Times, April 7, 2022) https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/07/us/politics/homeland-security-inspector-general.html.

— Sen. Richard Durbin, Sen. Charles Grassley, Letter to DHS Inspector-General Joseph V. Cuffari (Washington: U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, April 26, 2022) https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2022-04-26%20RJD%20CEG%20Letter%20to%20IG%20Cuffari.pdf.

Letter from DHS Office of Inspector General to Senators Durbin and Grassley (Washington: DHS OIG, May 13, 2022) https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/IG-Cuffari-response-to-Chair-Durbin-and-RM-Grassley-20220513-Redacted.pdf.

— “Tweet from Liz Hempowicz @lizhempowicz” (United States: Twitter, May 18, 2022) https://twitter.com/lizhempowicz/status/1527004986613301251.

— “Secretary Mayorkas Directs DHS To Reform Employee Misconduct Discipline Processes” (Washington: Department of Homeland Security, June 16, 2022) https://www.dhs.gov/news/2022/06/16/secretary-mayorkas-directs-dhs-reform-employee-misconduct-discipline-processes.

— Chris Cameron, “Homeland Security Department Will Make Changes to Its Disciplinary Process” (New York: The New York Times, June 16, 2022) https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/16/us/politics/homeland-security-department.html.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP, DHS, ICE

Event Type(s): Evading Oversight, Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct, Sexual Assault or Harassment, Unethical Off-Duty Behavior

Last Known Accountability Status: DHS OIG investigation Closed, Under DHS Review

Victim Classification: DHS Employee

April 4, 2022

In a Fox News appearance, National Border Patrol Council union President Brandon Judd accused the Biden administration and the Democratic Party of allowing migrants into the United States “to change the demographics of the electorate.” According to journalist Melissa del Bosque, “Judd was echoing the ‘great replacement theory,‘ a white-supremacist belief with roots in the French nationalist movement of the early 20th century.”

Judd’s remarks were the subject of a May 6, 2022 USA Today story, which pointed out that this “Great Replacement” notion had appeared in the manifestos of mass shooters. The story voiced concern that Brandon Judd “is a federal employee, paid by taxpayers and tasked with the sensitive job of helping to police the nation’s border for an arm of the executive branch of government.” Judd texted to USA Today that he had never heard of the Great Replacement theory.

— Melissa del Bosque, “The Border Patrol Union Leads the Charge on Title 42 Misinformation” (United States: The Border Chronicle, April 12, 2022) https://www.theborderchronicle.com/p/the-border-patrol-union-leads-the.

— Will Carless, “’Replacement Theory’ Fuels Extremists and Shooters. Now a Top Border Patrol Agent Is Spreading It.” (USA Today via msn.com, May 6, 2022) https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/replacement-theory-fuels-extremists-and-shooters-now-a-top-border-patrol-agent-is-spreading-it/ar-AAWYxzI.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

March 11, 2022

A report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chief Security Officer, requested by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, finds few examples of violent domestic extremism among the Department’s workforce (original link). It warns, however, that DHS lacks clear definitions, training, guidances, and procedures to detect and root out extremist behavior.

A “data call” among DHS components identified 35 allegations of potential violent extremist activity between fiscal year 2019 and the third quarter of fiscal year 2021. Upon further review, four of those incidents “involved active participation or support for violent extremist activity,” the rest were deemed either unsubstantiated or miscategorized. The report does not specify how many of these incidents, if any, involved DHS’s border agencies.

“Because of the challenges with identifying, categorizing, and tracking this information,” the report notes, “it is possible that the data call resulted in an under-reporting of the number of allegations made and investigations conducted.”

Domestic Violent Extremism Internal Review: Observations, Findings, and Recommendations (Washington: Department of Homeland Security Office of the Chief Security Officer, March 11, 2022) https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/2022-03/Report%20to%20the%20Secretary%20of%20Homeland%20Security%20Domestic%20Violent%20Extremism%20Internal%20Review%20Observations%2C%20Findings%2C%20and%20Recommendations.pdf.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): DHS

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification:

March 2, 2022

Unnamed Border Patrol agents responded to Fox News with “anger and mockery” to President Joe Biden’s calls, in his March 1 State of the Union address, to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Very few people within CBP believe this administration will actually secure the border, they just do not believe in it,” one agent told Fox News Digital. “All of their actions, comments and practices are solely about pushing in as many illegal aliens as possible, not just those from the Americas but from around the world.”

Other agents were more blunt in their assessment of the president’s remarks.

“F—ing pandering 101, full of sh–,” one agent told Fox News.

“I laughed,” said another

Another said they didn’t even turn it on: “Figured it would be all lies and smoke…We’re losing so many agents, they’re fed up.”

“We all know he doesn’t care about secure borders,” another agent told Fox.

One agent cast doubt on the validity of asylum seekers’ claims, and leveled criticism at immigration judges.

“Immigration judges usually tend to follow the tendencies or intentions of their appointing administration, that means I and many other agents have little faith in them to actually follow immigration law,” they said. “The vast majority of these illegal aliens have no legitimate claims to asylum but administration-picked and taxpayer-funded lawyers will argue otherwise.  Unemployment, inability to buy groceries, domestic violence, bad schools and bad weather are not legitimate claims, period.”

— Adam Shaw, Bill Melugin, Peter Hasson, “Border Patrol Agents Don’t Buy Biden Pledge to Secure Border as They Deal With Migrant Crisis: ‘Full of S—‘” (Fox News, March 3, 2022) https://www.foxnews.com/politics/border-patrol-agents-bidens-pledge-secure-border-migrant-crisis.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

January 26, 2022

A Border Patrol agent surreptitiously recorded audio of a discussion between DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and agents assembled in Yuma, Arizona. The agent leaked the audio to TownHall.com, a right-wing website. It recorded agents complaining about policies that allow asylum-seeking migrants to remain in the United States while their cases are adjudicated. One agent turned his back while the Secretary spoke to him.

On January 28, agents leaked video of a tense exchange between Border Patrol Chief Raúl Ortiz and agents during Mayorkas’s visit to Laredo, Texas. An agent says, “For evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing… You’re allowing illegal aliens to be dropped off in communities.” CNN reported that an agent in Laredo confronted Mayorkas for wearing a jacket with the Border Patrol badge.

Border Patrol management circulated a 2010 memo reminding agents that surreptitious recording of coworkers “falls below the standards of integrity.”

— Julio Rosas, “DHS Secretary Had a Disastrous Meeting with Border Patrol Agents” (TownHall.com, January 26, 2022) https://townhall.com/tipsheet/juliorosas/2022/01/26/audio-recording-of-dhs-sec-mayorkas-disastrous-tense-with-yuma-border-patrol-agen-n2602386.

— Ali Bradley, “Tense exchange between US Border Patrol agents and USBP Chief Ortiz today in Laredo” (Facebook, January 28, 2022) https://www.facebook.com/AliBradleyTV/videos/512111106860585/.

— Geneva Sands, “Leaked audio and video show Border Patrol agents confronting Homeland Security secretary at meetings” (CNN, February 1, 2022) https://www.cnn.com/2022/02/01/politics/border-patrol-agents-mayorkas/index.html.

Sector(s): Laredo, Yuma

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

November 17, 2021

Just before a mandate that all federal employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 by November 22, Border Patrol had a 79 percent rate of full vaccination. Another 16 percent of agents had pending requests for exemptions from the mandate, much higher than the federal government average, leaving 5 percent unvaccinated or unresponsive. At the Intercept, Ken Klippenstein wrote about agents who resent or are resisting the vaccine mandate. In it, an agent in the Rio Grande Valley sector sent an e-mail to 3,000 colleagues that began, “You said, ‘STOP THE SPREAD!!’ but that should have been our battle cry, ‘STOP THE SPREAD OF ILLEGAL ALIENS INTO THE COUNTRY.”

— Valerie Gonzalez, “Border Patrol prepares to address non-compliant unvaccinated agents” (McAllen: The Monitor, November 27, 2021) https://myrgv.com/featured/2021/11/27/border-patrol-prepares-to-address-non-compliant-unvaccinated-agents/.

— Ken Klippenstein, “The Biden Administration’s Game of Chicken With Border Patrol Over Vaccines” (The Intercept, December 1, 2021) https://theintercept.com/2021/12/01/covid-vaccine-mandate-border-patrol/.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Disregard of Public Health, Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

October 25, 2021

A strongly (and explicitly) worded report from the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued on October 25, detailed the disciplinary process following 2019 revelations of a secret Facebook page at which CBP personnel posted racist, violent, and lewd content (original link). The Committee discovered that for most involved, consequences were light: they “had their discipline significantly reduced and continued to work with migrants” (original link).

In July 2019, ProPublica revealed the existence of “I’m 10-15,” a Facebook group with about 9,500 members, many or most of them CBP and Border Patrol personnel. (“I’m 10-15” means “I have migrants in custody.”) ProPublica, and later the Intercept, posted screenshots of content replete with sexual imagery, threats of violence, racist sentiments toward migrants, and disparagement (or worse) of left-of-center political figures.

“CBP knew about Border Patrol agents’ inappropriate posts on ‘I’m 10-15’ since 2016, three years before it was reported publicly,” the House Committee found. Among the Facebook group’s members were Border Patrol’s last two chiefs, Carla Provost (2018-2020) and Rodney Scott (2020-August 2021). Both indicated that they followed the group in order to monitor agents’ attitudes and complaints. After ProPublica revealed the page’s existence, Provost had said “these posts are completely inappropriate” and that agents “will be held accountable.”

Investigators had a hard time finding out whether anyone was indeed being held accountable. Facebook refused to provide content from the page to investigators from CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), forcing them to rely on screenshots obtained by media outlets. During the Trump administration, CBP refused to hand over disciplinary records to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, even after the committee issued a November 2020 subpoena. The records were turned over in February, after Donald Trump left office.

The Committee found “significant shortcomings in CBP’s approach to disciplining and training employees on social media misconduct.” CBP OPR opened 135 investigations into allegations related to “I’m 10-15” and other unnamed secret Facebook groups. A chief patrol agent, in the role of “deciding official,” made all disciplinary decisions.

This individual decided that 60 of the 135 CBP employees committed misconduct. In the end, the Committee found, “Almost all received significantly lighter final penalties than proposed by CBP’s Discipline Review Board.”

In the end:

  • 2 were fired; CBP’s Discipline Review Board had recommended 24 removals. Both had published sexualized and in some cases violent images of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), among other disturbing content.
  • 43 were suspended without pay, most for five days or fewer; the Discipline Review Board had recommended 60 suspensions. Those suspended were “then permitted to return to work in positions of power over migrants,” the Committee’s report notes.
  • 12 received letters of reprimand, 3 received “alternate disciplinary actions” like suspension with pay, 11 received “corrective or non-disciplinary actions,” and 10 took retirement before disciplinary action was taken. Twelve appealed their punishments.

“The CBP discipline system is broken,” a report from an independent DHS panel had stated in 2016 (original link). “No one official and no single office of CBP is actually responsible for assuring timeliness for all phases of the discipline process,” it notes, while “responsibility for investigating an allegation of misconduct is fragmented.” Improving human rights oversight was not a priority during the Trump administration, so no notable accountability progress was made since that report’s publication.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee report described the byzantine accountability process:

OPR investigates the conduct, and CBP’s Discipline Review Board proposes discipline. A deciding official then makes a discipline determination. In some cases, when CBP substantiates allegations of misconduct, employees may be able to appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB); file a grievance with a CBP employee union such as the National Border Patrol Council, which may invoke arbitration on behalf of the employee; or, if they believe the action was discriminatory, file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

This description left out the DHS Office of Inspector General and Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which may play at least tangential roles.

“CBP’s failure to prevent these violent and offensive statements by its own agents or impose adequate discipline creates a serious risk that this behavior will continue,” read a press statement from the committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York). “As we saw with the mistreatment of migrants by Border Patrol agents in Del Rio, Texas last month, systemic behavior problems within CBP persist. CBP must take immediate steps to reform its disciplinary processes, strengthen social media policies and training, and address longstanding issues of poor morale within its ranks.”

Border Patrol Agents in Secret Facebook Group Faced Few Consequences for Misconduct (Washington: House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform, October 25, 2021) https://oversight.house.gov/sites/democrats.oversight.house.gov/files/COR%20CBP%20Facebook%20Group%20Report%20-%20October%202021.pdf.

— “Committee Report Reveals CBP Reduced Discipline for Dozens of Agents and Allowed Them to Continue Working with Migrants Despite Violent and Offensive Facebook Posts” (Washington: House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform, October 25, 2021) https://oversight.house.gov/news/press-releases/committee-report-reveals-cbp-reduced-discipline-for-dozens-of-agents-and-allowed

Final Report of the CBP Integrity Advisory Panel (Washington: Department of Homeland Security, March 15, 2016) https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/HSAC CBP IAP_Final Report_FINAL (accessible)_0.pdf.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Evading Oversight, Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct, LGBT Discrimination or Harassment, Racial Discrimination or Profiling, Threat of Violence, Unethical Off-Duty Behavior

Last Known Accountability Status: Congressional Investigation Closed, OPR Investigation Closed, Personnel Terminated, Suspension, Reprimand, or Counseling

Victim Classification:

September 18, 2021

A CBP officer was among those arrested at the small “Justice for January 6” far-right protest in Washington on September 18. “The officer had a gun, but was not on duty at the time of arrest,” reported Nicole Sganga of CBS News.

— “Tweet by Nicole Sganga @NicoleSganga” (Twitter: September 20, 2021) https://twitter.com/NicoleSganga/status/1440029782545092619.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct, Unethical Off-Duty Behavior

Last Known Accountability Status: Criminal Charges Pending, Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification:

August 7, 2020

NBC News reports that career officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are being sidelined by Trump administration appointees, who are ignoring their input on human rights issues.

The sidelining by the Trump appointees [Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli] is felt acutely in the agency’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, or CRCL, where employees hired to field complaints about DHS and review new policies believe they are not being heard, said the two current [DHS] officials, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity.

In recent months, CRCL has raised concerns about the development of a new use-of-force policy for Customs and Border Protection, the two current officials said, including concerns about the use of chemical deterrents against people trying to damage the wall on the southern U.S. border. But after raising those concerns, the office has yet to hear back on whether agents will be allowed to use chemicals to deter people trying to damage the wall.

According to recent reports, Cuccinelli removed CRCL from its usual role of reviewing the reports from the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, the office recently accused of collecting intelligence on journalists covering the protests in Portland, Oregon.

Sources inside DHS raise concerns to NBC about the Trump administration’s use of Border Patrol agents and other DHS personnel to confront protesters in Portland, Oregon. Nate Snyder, an Obama-era DHS counterterrorism official, tells NBC that Trump “wants his own state-run police force” that can commit “violence against protesters without coordinating with local law enforcement.”

— Julia Ainsley and Laura Strickler, “DHS staffers say Trump appointees Wolf, Cuccinelli ignoring input on protests, immigration policy” (Washington: NBC News, August 7, 2020) https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/dhs-staffers-say-trump-appointees-wolf-cuccinelli-ignoring-input-protests-n1236040.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP, DHS

Event Type(s): Crowd Control, Evading Oversight, Insubordinate or Highly Politicized Conduct, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification: DHS Employee