Chairwoman Maloney Applauds Disciplinary Reforms at DHS Following Committee Investigation
Washington, D.C. (June 17, 2022)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued the following statement after Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to reform the Department’s employee misconduct discipline processes. The reforms follow an Oversight Committee investigation and staff report showing that most Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel who committed misconduct on a secret Facebook page were not appropriately disciplined.
“My Committee’s investigation into Border Patrol agents’ misconduct in secret Facebook groups revealed a broken process that lacked accountability and put migrants at risk. CBP reduced discipline for dozens of agents and allowed them to continue working with migrants—including vulnerable children—despite violent and offensive Facebook posts. The Department’s announcement takes steps to correct failures uncovered by the Committee, and I applaud Secretary Mayorkas for his efforts to reform CBP’s deeply flawed disciplinary process.”
Last year, the Oversight Committee released a staff report entitled Border Patrol Agents in Secret Facebook Group Faced Few Consequences for Misconduct, showing that most CBP agents who committed misconduct on the “I’m 10-15” secret Facebook page, including posting derogatory and threatening content about migrants and elected officials, had their discipline significantly reduced and continued to work with migrants even after their misconduct was uncovered. Among other findings, the investigation uncovered:
- CBP officials were given wide discretion to determine disciplinary penalties, and the penalties for similar instances of misconduct were inconsistent.
- Most of the 60 agents who committed misconduct received reduced penalties, and 57 of them were allowed to continue working with migrants.
- The vast majority of agents— including those who made degrading and even threatening comments about migrants—received only minor discipline.
The staff report recommended that CBP improve its disciplinary process by “establish[ing] strong procedures to encourage reporting of misconduct, effective investigations into misconduct, [and] consistent application of disciplinary actions.” It also recommended that “CBP should reform the disciplinary process to consider whether an employee’s misconduct displayed prejudice, discrimination, or bias when determining an agent’s penalty.”
On May 10, 2022, the Oversight Committee and Homeland Security Committee launched a joint inquiry into reports that the DHS Inspector General sought to censor findings of domestic abuse and sexual harassment by DHS employees—including evidence that employees who committed misconduct received little or no discipline.
Last month, President Biden issued an Executive Order to reform federal policing practices, directing the Attorney General to establish a national database on law enforcement misconduct. The Executive Order addressed a Committee recommendation to utilize national databases of law enforcement misconduct in order to “reform hiring processes to screen for applicants with records of discrimination or similar misconduct.”
Yesterday, Secretary Mayorkas instructed DHS to implement “significant reforms” to employee misconduct discipline processes, such as “centralizing the decision-making process for disciplinary actions and overhauling agency policies regarding disciplinary penalties.” This includes specific guidance to “ensure consequences are consistent and appropriate based on the severity of the misconduct.” A senior DHS official acknowledged the reforms are intended to address the disciplinary process at CBP stating, “There has been public criticism of some of the discipline at CBP and I think it stands to reason that we may do more centralization there.”