U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro speaks to the press in San Antonio on Tuesday.
Describing the culture inside Customs and Border Patrol as "rancid," U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro called for a congressional investigation in the wake of reports about a secret Facebook group
for agents where members posted offensive remarks about migrants and lawmakers.
"Unfortunately, the culture in Border Patrol is a very rancid one, and in many ways, the bad has overtaken the good," said Castro, D-San Antonio, who this week toured a pair of the agency's Texas detention facilities
. "There are many good agents in Border Patrol — people who are trying to do their best, taking care of the people in their custody, trying to protect the United States — but they are often facing an overwhelming system, and a system where you have a lot of rogue agents, some of whom made those vulgar comments on the Facebook page."
The online forum, first reported on by ProPublica, included comments mocking the deaths of border crossers and vulgar, doctored photos of Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. CBP's Office of the Inspector General has launched a probe into the group.
But Castro said he's heard from personnel inside CBP that agents who complain about the culture and advocate for improvement are often punished by management or drowned out by the voices of their colleagues.
"I think there should be a congressional investigation as well as an Inspector General investigation," he said.
Castro said he's hopeful video and photos he shared
from this week's visit to detention facilities will make Americans demand better treatment for migrants. However, Congress also must legislate change, he added. He cited the U.S. House's recent adoption of a $4.6 billion Senate humanitarian aid package
as a missed opportunity to force the Trump administration to roll back its draconian immigration policies.
"The next time we have an appropriations bill, or any bill that deals with migration, we need to not just pump more cash into a broken system," Castro said. "We also need to insist we lift the standards of care — the medical standards of care, the humane treatment. That didn't happen very much in the Senate bill."
Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.