HARLINGEN, RGV – A LULAC leader in the Rio Grande Valley has responded to reports that thousands of Border Patrol agents were sharing racist and sexist comments about migrants on a secret Facebook page.

Federico Garza, district director for District 13, which is the LULAC Council for Harlingen, San Benito and Weslaco, said he is appalled at the mindset of the Facebook group known as “I’m 10-15.”

Frederico Garza

According to a report in ProPublica, some 9,500 current and former border agents are part of the private Facebook group. Members of the group referred to a drowned migrant father and his toddler as “floaters” and joked about tossing burritos at Hispanic members of Congress who planned to visit migrant detention centers.

Customs and Border Protection is investigating the Facebook group.

“As a former military medic and a former employee of the Department of Justice, Community Relations Service in Guantanamo Bay Cuba, I witnessed the benevolent attitude of soldiers and immigration officials toward the Haitians and the Cubans,” Garza told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“Unfortunately, I, also, witnessed the despicable attitude of soldiers and immigration officials who would dehumanize immigrants and treat them in a very cruel manner.”

Garza said that when he saw military officers that are supposed to represent the best of the United States make fun of epileptic people, he “wondered if these soldiers were the exception and not the rule.”

Fortunately, he said, that was the case.

“There were more good soldiers than these racist and callous individuals,” Garza said.

“Anybody who wears the uniform of the United States is obligated to uphold the highest moral fiber of the United States, because so many valiant people have died to uphold that honor. If a person cannot maintain the moral fiber required to wear that uniform, he should immediately quit or be fired.”

Garza said the United States is a great nation with a diversity of people.

“We don’t always agree, but we should not dehumanize someone just because they don’t agree with our values. We need to respect each other. We can debate, but we should not hate,” Garza said.

“My personal feelings is that anybody who misrepresented his intentions when he swore his oath to the United States, should be fired immediately.”

Garza is not alone in this thinking. U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, recently visited migrant camps in El Paso and Clint. Asked about the Border Patrol Facebook group during an interview with PBS Newshour, Castro said:

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro

 “They should be fired. Everybody who made those vulgar and vile comments, who threatened the members of Congress, who made light of migrants who were dying while crossing the river, and made all these other remarks, they are desensitized to the point of being dangerous to the people in their custody and their co-workers,” Castro said.

“If you look at what they said, they are not fit to wear any uniform that represents the United States of America. I expect CBP will do a thorough investigation and get rid of the people responsible and that Congress will do its own investigation.”

National LULAC offers reward

LULAC stands for the League of United Latin American Citizens. At the national level, the group said it wants the Border Patrol agents making derogatory comments about migrants to be fired.

LULAC National President Domingo Garcia noted that the ProPublica report reveals thousands of border agents are members of a secret group on Facebook that for the past three years has been mocking refugees with derogatory, sexually explicit content and even joking about migrants dying.

Domingo Garcia, president of LULAC

“I am angry and disgusted by what these agents of Customs and Border Protection who have been dehumanizing the deaths of refugees entrusted into their care,” Garcia, said. “Those border agents who stained their badge and uniforms with racist and sexist abuse need to be fired now.”

Garcia noted that the ProPublica story cited Border Patrol agents calling Latina lawmakers visiting detention facilities in South Texas “scum buckets” and “hoes”. There were Facebook entries about the deaths of refugees, talk of throwing burritos at visiting members of Congress and a fake an illustration depicting U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a sexual act with a migrant detainee.

“This is additional proof that caging children and locking refugees in overcrowded concentration camps is turning what were once decent people into monsters in green, terrorizing women and children,” Garcia said.

“The actions, revealed in their own Facebook posts, shock our senses because they show how indifferent these agents are to their sworn duties and what little regard or respect they have for human suffering. These agents clearly could care less about the lives of desperate families traveling thousands of miles with just the clothes on their backs trying to reach safety.”

Garcia said he hoped that “good, law abiding” Border Patrol and ICE agents would speak out about the abuses and disclose them. He said LULAC is announcing a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest, indictment and conviction of any Border Patrol or ICE agent who has abused children, migrants or refugees in detention centers and in ICE custody.

“LULAC is also calling on the United Nations and the American Red Cross to be allowed to send doctors and refugee observers to inspect all immigrant concentration camps within the next seven days,” Garcia said.

“In addition, LULAC is asking that charges be considered by local district attorneys in counties where these centers are located, to look at bringing indictments of child abuse and neglect against the agents and their commanders who are involved in these criminal activities.”

Garcia added that LULAC wants the Border Patrol National Council to encourage its members to help in these investigations, “so those agents who serve honorably and in  many cases have even saved lives of refugees do not see their own reputations tarnished by others in their ranks who fail to uphold the oaths they have taken.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows a group of Central American migrants being questioned about their children’s health after surrendering to U.S. Border Patrol agents south of the U.S.-Mexico border fence in El Paso, Texas, March 6, 2019. (Photo: CNS/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)