CBP's 'Misogynistic And Racist Behavior' Might Be Why Border Patrol Had 'Lowest Percentage Of Women' Of Any Federal Law Enforcement Agency, Rights Group Says

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has come under international scrutiny after a series of revelations shone a light the full extent of the alleged mistreatment migrants detained at U.S. border facilities face, as well as repeated instances of "misogynistic and racist behavior" from CBP personnel.

In a statement on Tuesday, the National Organization for Women (NOW) suggested that CBP's low number of women employees might be a reflection of its culture of misogyny and racism within the agency. Border Patrol was found to have the "lowest percentage of women on their force out of any federal law enforcement agency" in 2017.

"Recent reporting confirms that migrants are being subjected to inhumane conditions at detention centers run by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agency," NOW said, referring to a series of reports that have shone a light on the conditions migrants face in detention, including being forced to live in cold, cramped spaces with insufficient access to food, water and basic sanitation.

In addition to having to endure "appalling" conditions, migrants also told lawyers and Congressmembers during recent visits to facilities in Clint and El Paso, Texas, of how they suffered ill-treatment at the hands of CBP personnel. This included women being told to drink from toilet bowls after complaining of thirst and children being laughed at when they cried.

Congressmembers also described how they were treated with hostility by the CBP, with personnel trying to take away their phones and prevent them from seeing and documenting the situation at border detention facilities.

"If these agents treat Congressional representatives with cruelty and disdain, one can only imagine how terribly migrants are treated," NOW said in its statement.

Furthermore, NOW noted, a recent investigation by non-profit investigative news outlet ProPublica "revealed abhorrent online behavior of CBP agents targeting both women and people of color with hostile and derogatory remarks."

CBP has said it is investigating allegations of racist and sexist social media activity from current and former Border Patrol agents in a Facebook group called "I'm 10-15," which is said to include as 9,500 current and former Border Patrol workers.

In the group, users were found to be sharing offensive content, including an illustration of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez performing oral sex on an immigrant in a detention facility, as well as supposed jokes about tossing burritos at Hispanic members of Congress and branding a drowned migrant father and daughter "floaters."

"NOW stands against the mistreatment of migrants and condemns the pervasive culture of sexism and racism at CBP," the organization said in its statement, as it called for "these cruel policies and detention centers to end."

Border Patrol, NOW said, "has the lowest percentage of women on their force out of any federal law enforcement agency," citing a 2017 Politico report finding that just five percent of the U.S. Border Patrol's agents were female at the time.

"This troubling fact clearly manifests itself in the misogynistic and racist behavior exhibited by CBP agents," NOW said.

"CBP must be held accountable for their actions," NOW said.

In a statement sent to Newsweek, CBP spokesperson Jacqueline Wren said that while she could not provide information on whether the Border Patrol still has "the lowest percentage of women" out of any federal law enforcement agency, since 2011, the U.S. Border Patrol has seen growth in the number of women employees.

"Women accounted for 11.4% of the Border Patrol Agent and CBP Officer positions combined in FY 2011 and currently account for 13.0% of these positions this fiscal year," she said. "Across all frontline occupations (Air Interdiction Agent, Agriculture Specialist, Border Patrol Agent, CBP Officer, and Marine Interdiction Agent) the representation of women has grown since FY 2011. Women accounted for 12.1% of all frontline positions combined in FY 2011 and currently account for 13.9% of these positions this fiscal year."

Meanwhile, across the CBP as a whole, Wren said, "the representation of women has grown from 20.6% of the workforce in FY 2014 to 21.4% this fiscal year."

The House Oversight Committee has announced that it will be holding a July 12 hearing to address CBP's treatment of migrants, as well as the existence of the "I'm 10-15" Facebook group.

In a statement provided to Newsweek, U.S. Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost said the Facebook posts shared in the group "are completely inappropriate and contrary to the honor and integrity I see—and expect—from our agents day in and day out."

"Any employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable," she said.

A sign is posted at the U.S. Border Patrol station where lawyers reported that detained migrant children had been held unbathed and hungry on June 26, 2019 in Clint, Texas. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency is facing international scrutiny after a series of revelations shining a light on alleged mistreatment of detained migrants and racist and misogynistic posts in a private social media group. Mario Tama/Getty

This article has been updated with a statement from CBP.