Things That Matter

Secret Facebook Group Shows Border Patrol Agents Mocking Death Of Migrants And Some People Are Demanding Answers

In a secret Facebook group for former and current Border Patrol officers, members joke, celebrate and make racist, xenophobic and sexist memes about the inhumane treatment of migrants, those who have died trying to reach our borders and the politicians who support immigration reform.

For the last three years, “I’m 10-15,” a name that alludes to the Border Patrol’s code 10-15 for “aliens in custody,” has functioned as a digital space for its 9,500 members to connect and have “funny” and “serious” discussions about work with the patrol, its introduction says, according to a report by ProPublica

The nonprofit investigative news outlet confirmed that many of the participants in the conversations had “legitimate Facebook profiles belonging to Border Patrol agents.”

On the page, members joked about the deaths of migrants. One member responded to a post about Carlos Gregorio Hernandez-Vasquez, a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant who died in custody at a Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas, with a GIF of Elmo saying “Oh well.” Another replied, “If he dies, he dies.”

Most recently, members questioned the validity of the death of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, who drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande in June, suggesting that the viral photo taken by the Associated Press of the father and daughter lying dead was altered. “I HAVE NEVER SEEN FLOATERS LIKE THIS,” they wrote.

The agents also use the page for violent attacks against politicians who have expressed support for migrants, largely Sen. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). The congressional freshman, who has compared migrant detention centers to concentration camps, was repeatedly used as the subject of sexist memes and illustrations. In one, the Bronx Puerto Rican politician is seen performing oral sex on Donald Trump. In another, which was captioned “Lucky Illegal Immigrant Glory Hole Special Starring AOC,” she is depicted engaging in fellatio with a detained migrant.

In another post, participants discussed physically violating Ocasio-Cortez and Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar, who, alongside Rep. Joaquin Castro, is scheduled to tour a Border Patrol facility in Texas on Monday. Members posted a GoFundMe “for one CTX agent brave enough to throw a 10-15 burrito at one of these bitches.” Another member, who appears to be a patrol supervisor, responded, “Fuck the hoes.”

Ocasio-Cortez, who referred to the group as a “violent culture,” reflected on “I’m 10-15” on Twitter, saying, “There are 20,000 TOTAL Customs & Border Patrol agents in the US. 9,500 – almost HALF that number – are in a racist & sexually violent secret CBP Facebook group.”

She continued: “They’re threatening violence on members of Congress. How do you think they’re treating caged children+families?”

Castro, who is the head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said the Facebook group confirms some of the worst criticisms of Customs and Border Protection. 

“These are clearly agents who are desensitized to the point of being dangerous to migrants and their co-workers,” he said, adding, members “don’t deserve to wear any uniform representing the United States of America.”

In a statement on Twitter, CBP announced it had opened an investigation into the matter.

“These posts 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,” Border Patrol chief Carla Provost wrote.

Border Patrol Agents Threw Away Meaningful Items Belonging To Migrants, Now There’s An Art Show Displaying Dozens Of Items

Things That Matter

Border Patrol Agents Threw Away Meaningful Items Belonging To Migrants, Now There’s An Art Show Displaying Dozens Of Items

Tomkiefer.photographe / Instagram

Photographer Tom Kiefer worked as a custodian at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Southern Arizona from 2003 to 2014. When migrants and asylum seekers crossed the Southern border officials would throw away their belongings, medications, and nonessentials during processing. Kiefer collected all of those belongs, arranged them systematically, and photographed them.

The photos will be displayed in the exhibition “El Sueño Americano / The American Dream: Photographs by Tom Kiefer” at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. 

The result is eye-catching and colorful art that, upon closer inspection, reveals the rich inner lives of migrants. Kiefer’s photographs of the CDs they were listening to, the medications they were on, and even diary entries provide insight into the almost ordinariness of migrants. These were just people carrying things that meant something to them the way anyone else going somewhere would. Then the U.S. government deemed those personal and sentimental items trash. 

What Kiefer provides is a rarely seen snapshot of what migrants cared about when they came to the United States looking for a better shot. 

Kiefer was documenting American history through his lens and labor. 

“It was my way of documenting a piece of our nation’s history,” Kiefer told the Washington Post

In one of his haunting photos, there are 32 CDs lined up. Some CDs are from artists like Trapt but others are mixed CDs with intimate labels like “Brown Pride” or “Super Sappy Songs for Issa 2.” The image reminds the viewer that these migrants were real people — and we don’t know who any of them are and because of the United States’ ever-changing immigration policies, we don’t know if they’re even OK. 

Kiefer began to find the belongings when he asked if he could donate the canned goods that Border Patrol authorities seized to food pantries. He went through the trash bins to look for the nonperishables, but what he found instead was a wealth of humanity. 

“The Bibles, the rosaries, the family photographs. I was shocked,” he said. “And I didn’t know what to do, because it was obviously being condoned.”

Kiefer knew he would get into trouble if he took other items so everything he gathered was by intuition. Altogether in his years working there he collected 100,000 items. 

“I had to do it all very quick, discreet,” he said. “It was just rapid-fire, split-second decisions about what I could keep and what had to go in the trash, stay in the trash.”

Throwing away migrants’ possessions is particularly cruel, Kiefer feels.

 “[It] underscores the cruelty of the tentative punishment that the government feels the need to levy against these people. It’s clear the majority of which are decent, contributing and who want nothing more than a better life for themselves or for their family,” he told the Los Angeles TimesWhen Kiefer first began going through the trash looking for cans, he found mostly toothbrushes. However, when things appeared to be more personal like religious items and diaries, he felt compelled to save them because, he says, “no one would believe me if I had not collected these items.” He purposefully used colorful backgrounds to humanize the items. He didn’t want a cold, white background that would make things look sterile, more like products than personal items. 
“[The photos are] like a knife to the gut, and that’s precisely something that I think gives this work its power — that it draws you in with its beauty and then it has this really profoundly sad backstory,” Laura Mart, Skirball curator, told the Los Angeles Times.

He hopes the legacy of his exhibition is empathy above all else. 

“Dora the Explorer. A personal belonging carried by a migrant or someone seeking asylum. When apprehended by USCBP while crossing the desert most personal belongings considered non-essential or potentially lethal are confiscated and discarded,” Kiefer wrote in a caption of a children’s Dora the Explorer purse. 

Things like children’s toys, backpacks, and clothing items are enough to infuriate and sadden just about anybody.

“Whether it’s an individual object, shoelaces, I present them in a way that I hope the viewer can not just identify, but just kind of be empathetic, or put themselves in the person or persons’ shoes: ‘Wow, a person carried that.’ ‘That’s the same cologne I use, the same toothbrush or toothpaste,” Kiefer said. 

While he was a custodian during the Obama administration, Kiefer says he didn’t witness the abuses of powers reported under the current president. Kiefer personally condemns the Trump administration’s treatment of immigrants and hopes his exhibition will change some peoples’ stances. 

“Is this the nation we want to be?” He said. “The way things are now is not sustainable.”

Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Calls Out Media For Painting AOC As Representative Of Democratic Party

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Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Calls Out Media For Painting AOC As Representative Of Democratic Party

ocasio2018 / joebiden / Instagram

Former Vice President and Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden answered a question about Medicare for All by pivoting blame on the media, saying AOC is “a bright, wonderful person,” but not representative of the Democratic party as a whole. “You guys got it all wrong about what happened,” Biden told journalist Mike Allen on Axios on HBO. “You sound like Trump. Fake News,” Allen pointedly responded. Initially, Biden agreed, but then went on to reframe what Trump calls “Fake News” as simply “bad judgment.” Biden claims that the media’s assertion that “AOC was the new party” were “all wrong,” and that the Democratic party and its voters are not ready to relinquish private health insurance and adopt Medicare for all. 

“Come on, man,” Joe Biden implored the journalist to see his perspective.

CREDIT: AXIOS on HBO / YouTube

In a teaser trailer for Axios on HBO’s interview with presidential candidate Joe Biden, his view on the media took center stage. In fact, journalist Mike Allen prompted Biden’s response by asking if Medicare for all is “political suicide.” Before Allen could finish his sentence, Biden interrupts to chuckle, “The party’s not there at all.” Allen asserts that “Some of your opponents are,” but Biden doesn’t bite. He continues to state, “Yeah, but the party’s not there. You know the numbers. You guys got it all wrong about what happened.”

“You sound like Trump. Fake news.” Allen posits. “I do. No, look, it’s not fake, it’s just bad judgment,” Biden responds in an attempt to differentiate the semantics around a presidential candidate attempting to discredit negative media criticism. “You all thought that what happened was the party moved extremely to the left after Hillary,” Biden added, referencing media stories that “AOC was the new party.” He goes on to add that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is “a bright, wonderful person, but where’s the party? Come on, man.”

However, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll shows that “a slight majority of Americans say they favor [“Medicare-for-all”].”

CREDIT: KFF HEALTH TRACKING POLL (NOVEMBER 7-12, 2019)

The poll results, published just last month, states that “overall, a majority of Democrats and about half of independents favor a national Medicare-for-all plan while most Republicans oppose.” The only dissent boils down to misinformation about the existing proposals on the table. KFF polling found that Americans “know little about how the leading Medicare-for-all proposals would reshape the way all Americans get and pay for health care, and public support for Medicare-for-all shifts significantly when people hear arguments about potential tax increases or delays in medical tests and treatment.” 

The “what” is settled. The majority of Americans want Medicare-for-all. The “how” is still up for debate, and what Americans hope to see settled on the debate stage. The KFF polling found that Americans are more likely to support “incremental changes to expand the public health insurance program” rather than completely replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and private health insurance altogether with an entirely new proposal. The polling makes it clear that Democrats are far beyond the question of whether or not to expand public health care. They want to understand how their candidates-of-choice will expand public health care.

Biden’s top opponents, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have campaigned on Medicare-for-All.

CREDIT: AXIOS on HBO / YouTube

In fact, the same KFF poll found that Bernie Sanders’s 2016 campaign was what tilted Americans toward a majority favorability of government healthcare. “This is America. You should not go bankrupt because you’re diagnosed with a serious illness,” 2020 Democratic hopeful, Sanders, tweeted this week. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) has endorsed Bernie Sanders for President, both of whom identify as Democratic Socialists. Both AOC and Sanders have a shared vision of free public college, guaranteed family leave, and free healthcare for all, often citing the successful examples of other European countries that offer those same solutions for basic human needs.

Thus far, the YouTube comments on the Axios on HBO trailer are telling. The top three comments, in order, are “Jose is the part of the party we’d like to leave behind tbh,” “Senile Grumpy Old Joe !!!!!!” and “‘you should vote for Trump’ – Joe Biden 2019.”

Most recently, AOC criticized Biden for asking Cory Booker to issue an apology for criticizing Biden’s insensitivities to Black history in the United States.

CREDIT: @ALXTHOMP / TWITTER

In June, Biden shared an anecdote that was meant to attest to his political diplomacy, about how he worked with segregationist Senators James Eastland and Herman Talmadge. Democratic hopeful Senator Cory Booker demanded an apology to the American people for paternalistic story during which Biden referred to Black men as “boys.” Booker’s demand for an apology has been outstanding since June 2019. “You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys,'” Booker said. 

In response, Biden said he didn’t have a “racist bone” in his body, saying the American people and elected officials should “know better,” adding, “I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career. Apologize for what? Cory should apologize. He knows better.” AOC took to Twitter to shoot back, “For the record, Cory Booker does *not* owe Joe Biden an apology for pointing out that waxing nostalgic about working with segregationists is insensitive. ‘He knows better?’ Really? What is ‘better?’ To stay quiet about it?”

READ: Joe Biden Released A New Platform Regarding Puerto Rico And Hopes To See The Island Get The Respect It Deserves