WASHINGTON, DC – On October 30, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, sent a memo notifying Committee Members of her intent to issue a subpoena to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for documents it is withholding about dozens of CBP employees who engaged in misconduct in secret Facebook groups that were racist, sexually violent, dehumanizing, and abhorrent.
They made these vile posts not only about immigrants— including a father and daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande— but also about a Member of the Committee.
“It is unclear why the Trump Administration is going to such extreme lengths to protect these employees who posted racist and sexually violent material, but President Trump himself has set the example of publicly and repeatedly defending similar actions by himself and others,” wrote Chairwoman Maloney.
Chairman Elijah E. Cummings first requested these documents in July 2019. CBP initially refused to produce the documents by claiming that it had to withhold them while it conducted its own internal investigation—a claim the Committee disputed. Nevertheless, after CBP concluded the disciplinary process and this argument disappeared, CBP began claiming that it has the right to withhold information unless Congress agrees to never make it public.
“The Trump Administration has not set forth any valid legal basis to withhold this information. One of the most recent reasons the Administration has given for its overt obstruction is a fear that the identities and abuses of these employees could become public,” added Chairwoman Maloney. “In communications with the Committee, the Trump Administration has expressed more concern about protecting the reputations of employees who made racist and sexually depraved posts than the wellbeing of the children and families they interact with on a daily basis.”
Based on the limited information produced to the Committee, it is evident that the Trump Administration significantly reduced the punishment of many of these employees, while at the same time shielding them from Congressional oversight.
“Even in cases in which the Trump Administration itself has determined that employees should be disciplined, suspended, or even fired, the Administration continues to maintain that it will not allow the Committee to know who these employees are, what specific violations they have been disciplined for, what their roles in CBP were, and, if they are still employed, whether they continue working with children and detainees,” Chairwoman Maloney wrote.
The Committee received final disposition documents in 106 cases. Based on the documents obtained to date, it appears that CBP fired four employees, suspended 37 employees, and issued Letters of Reprimand to ten employees.
The documents indicate that CBP reduced three firings to suspensions, the duration of 19 suspensions, and one suspension to a Letter of Reprimand. In 24 additional cases, CBP redacted the proposed punishments so the Committee is unable to determine whether the proposed penalties were for terminations or whether the length of additional suspensions were reduced.
The subpoena will compel Mark Morgan, the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner of CBP, to produce complete and unredacted copies of all documents by November 13, 2020.
The full text of the memo is available online: https://oversight.house.gov/sites/democrats.oversight.house.gov/files/2020-10-30.COR%20Subpoena%20Memo%20re%20Customs%20and%20Border%20Protection.pdf.