The Trump administration had blocked the House committee’s inquiry, which began in 2019 after the Facebook group was revealed. Customs and Border Protection began providing documents to lawmakers in February, after President Biden took office, the report said.
The committee faulted Customs and Border Protection for not having a strong enough social media policy or doing enough to make its employees aware of it. But its main criticism concerned the agency’s decision to dole out lighter discipline than what was recommended by its Discipline Review Board. The agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility conducted the investigations, the review board made recommendations and a “deciding official” — in this case, a longtime Border Patrol agent — made the final decisions on punishment.
According to the report, of the 60 employees that Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility determined acted with misconduct, two were fired; 43 were suspended without pay; 12 got letters of reprimand; and three were given other punishments, such as suspension without pay.
In one case, the discipline review board recommended firing a Border Patrol supervisor who posted a C.B.P. video of a migrant falling off a cliff and dying on the group’s Facebook page, as well as an obscene comment about a lawmaker. But in the end, the punishment was a 30-day suspension. Other punishments were reduced after an arbitration process.
The agency’s failure to quickly discipline employees after senior leaders became aware of the Facebook group, its lack of specific disciplinary guidelines and the inconsistent punishments it applied all weakened C.B.P.’s ability to hold agents accountable for misconduct, the report found.
“It is unacceptable that the vast majority of these agents faced reduced punishment and were allowed to continue working with migrants,” Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York, said in a statement. “The late Chairman Cummings would often remind us at moments like these that ‘we are better than this!’” Mr. Jeffries was referring to Representative Elijah E. Cummings, who led the committee when it first began investigating the Facebook group. Mr. Cummings died in October 2019.
It was not immediately clear if the investigation into the treatment of migrants in Del Rio last month would be conducted the same way, with the review board recommending certain disciplinary measures and a “deciding official.”
The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general conducted a separate investigation into whether senior agency officials were aware of how many employees were part of the Facebook group and found that they generally did not. But the internal watchdog said that C.B.P. leaders did nothing to prevent something similar from happening in the future until the department directed them to.
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