Reps. Pressley, Wild, Lawmakers Call for Resignation of Carla Provost, Chief of U.S. Border Patrol

August 1, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Congresswoman Susan Wild (PA-07), and 32 other Members of Congress sent a letter to Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Kevin McAleenan requesting the immediate resignation of Carla Provost, Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, citing the loss of the public’s confidence that she can faithfully execute the responsibilities of her position without bias or prejudice.

The letter highlighted Chief Provost’s participation in a secret Facebook group used by employees of the U.S. Border Patrol to share grossly inappropriate commentary about both detainees and sitting Members of Congress. The Representatives also expressed great concern that this callous content impugns the character of the U.S. Border Patrol as a whole.

“Atrocious commentary that stokes racist and xenophobic tropes have no place in private, much less in public service,” wrote the lawmakers in the letter. “The Facebook group generated content that joked about migrant deaths and throwing food at Members of Congress, and even went so far as to make sexually violent and threatening statements about female members of Congress who came to the border to inspect the conditions at detention centers. For the avoidance of any doubt, the callousness displayed in the Facebook group is matched only by the callous treatment of children detainees under Ms. Provost’s watch.”

In July, Provost testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security regarding the humanitarian crisis at the southwest border. In this testimony, Provost expressed surprise about the Facebook group and promised that any employees participating would be disciplined for their actions. Provost later admitted that she had been a member of the Facebook group for months and did not provide an explanation as to why she had not alerted DHS of the Facebook group upon its discovery. The House Oversight and Reform Committee has since requested documents related to the Facebook posts by Customs and Border Protection officers.

In addition to Wild, the letter is signed by Nydia Velazquez (NY-07), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Donald Payne Jr. (NJ-10), Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Gregory Meeks (NY-05), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Karen Bass (CA-37), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Nanette Diaz Barragan (CA-44), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Bobby Rush (IL-01) , Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Andy Levin (MI-09), Ben Ray Lujan (NW-03), Tom Malinowski (NJ-07), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Eliot Engel (NY-16), Frank Pallone (NJ-06), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Deb Haaland (NW-01), Darren Soto (FL-09), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), and Dwight Evans (PA-03).

 

The full text of the letter is below and can be found here:

 

Dear Acting Secretary McAleenan:

We, the undersigned Members of Congress, request that you immediately request the resignation of Carla Provost, Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, who has lost the public’s confidence that she can faithfully execute the responsibilities of her position without bias or prejudice.

Ms. Provost was a willing participant in a secret Facebook group used by employees of her agency to share contemptable and atrocious commentary that stokes racist and xenophobic tropes that have no place in private, much less in public service.  The Facebook group, originally known as “I’m 10-15,” generated content that joked about migrant deaths and throwing burritos at Members of Congress, and even went so far as to make sexually violent and threatening statements about female members of Congress who came to the border to inspect the conditions at detention centers. We worry this content impugns the character of the U.S. Border Patrol as a whole.

Earlier this month, Ms. Provost expressed surprise about the Facebook group at issue and publicly stated, “[t]hese posts are completely inappropriate and contrary to the honor and integrity I see – and expect—from our agents day in and day out.” She also promised that “[a]ny employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable.” At that same time, she stated that she had alerted the DHS Inspector General’s Office and an investigation would be launched.  Conspicuously absent from her statement was an admission that she had been a member of the Facebook group for months—as evidenced by her comments on a particular post questioning her ascent to Chief— or an explanation as to why she hadn’t already alerted DHS of the Facebook group.

As Chief of U.S. Border Patrol it is Ms. Provost’s responsibility to discipline employees who fall under her agency’s auspices, not participate in conduct unbecoming of her office. It appears that to date CBP employees have only received cease and desist letters or been placed on administrative duties pending investigation—and only after the Facebook group came to light through news reports.

For the avoidance of any doubt, the callousness displayed in the Facebook group is matched only by the callous treatment of children detainees under Ms. Provost’s watch.  The conditions at these detention centers—which include limited access to basic hygienic needs like showers, toothpaste, and clean clothes—are not just failures of sufficient funding, they are failures of leadership.  These Facebook posts suggest that the culprit is not just lack of resources but a level of malice that has no place in the policing of our borders. 

As Members of Congress, we are committed to ensuring that those who occupy top positions in federal government are held to the highest standards. This is especially true of the Chief of U.S. Border Patrol, at a time when conditions at our southern border have reached a crisis point. As such, we urge you to follow Ms. Provost’s own promise of accountability, by immediately seeking her resignation.

 

 

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