Monday 19 August 2019

Probe ordered as 'jokes made about immigrants dying' by border agents on Facebook

Exhausting process: A US border patrol agent takes down information from Ana Esmeralda, from El Salvador, and her son Manuel Alexander, (2) after they were taken into custody. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images
Exhausting process: A US border patrol agent takes down information from Ana Esmeralda, from El Salvador, and her son Manuel Alexander, (2) after they were taken into custody. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Diana Beth Solomon

The head of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has ordered an investigation into a secret Facebook group where border agents joked about immigrants dying.

"These statements are completely unacceptable," Kevin McAleenan, acting DHS secretary, wrote on Twitter, following the revelation of the group by the news site ProPublica.

Mr McAleenan said that any employee found to have "compromised the public's trust in our law enforcement mission" would be held accountable.

The Facebook posts included jokes about the deaths of migrants and sexually explicit comments referencing US representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was highly critical of the detention facilities after a tour this week.

While Democratic politicians and presidential hopefuls decried the Trump administration's handling of the border humanitarian crisis, there were signs immigration authorities were reducing migration flows.

The record surge of Central American families at the US south-west border has begun to ease after tougher enforcement efforts in Mexico, but conditions in detention facilities remain dire, according to Mexican and US officials.

Cramped conditions: Migrant families were held in overcrowded pens at a Border Patrol facility in McAllen in southern Texas. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Cramped conditions: Migrant families were held in overcrowded pens at a Border Patrol facility in McAllen in southern Texas. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

The US government's internal watchdog said migrant holding centres in Texas' Rio Grande Valley were dangerously overcrowded, publishing graphic pictures of cells holding twice as many people as they were built for.

Mexico's government, citing unpublished US data, said migrant arrests at the border fell 30pc in June from the previous month after it launched a migration crackdown as part of a deal with the United States to avoid possible trade tariffs. The Mexican government said it was now bussing home dozens of Central American migrants from border city Juárez who were forced to wait in Mexico for their asylum claims to be processed under a US policy known as 'Remain in Mexico'.

"Mexico's effort to control the flow of migrants appears to have broken a growing trend," the country's foreign ministry said in a statement.

After migrant arrests reached a 13-year monthly high in May, immigration has arguably become the biggest issue for Donald Trump and Democratic hopefuls vying for the 2020 presidential election.

US senator Cory Booker would "virtually eliminate immigration detention" if he wins the White House, his campaign said.

Presidential hopeful Julian Castro last week proposed decriminalising border crossings as a step towards freeing up federal resources and eliminating thousands of cases clogging criminal courts - an initiative favoured by fellow candidate Elizabeth Warren.

US President Donald Trump, meanwhile, looked to stir up support for his policies, promising immigration raids after today's Independence Day holiday to arrest migrants with deportation orders.

He faced a setback on Tuesday when a federal judge in Seattle blocked an administration move to keep thousands of asylum seekers in custody while they pursued their cases.

Mr Trump also said he is not dropping efforts to include a citizenship question on the upcoming 2020 census, even as the US Census Bureau has started the process of printing the questionnaire without the controversial query.

Mr Trump said in a tweet yesterday that, "News Reports about the Department of Commerce dropping its quest to put the Citizenship Question on the Census is incorrect or, to state it differently, FAKE!"

The White House did not immediately respond to questions about what he meant.

The Supreme Court halted the question's inclusion and Trump administration attorneys notified parties in lawsuits challenging the question they were standing down.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said forms were being printed without the question.

Irish Independent

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