WASHINGTON – After a week fielding racist attacks from President Donald Trump, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questioned Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan about the whereabouts of Border Patrol agents who threatened her in a secret Facebook group.
The intense and personal line of questioning Thursday happened as McAleenan appeared before the House Oversight and Reform Committee to testify about his role in separating migrant children from their families and worsening conditions at the migrant detention centers along the southern U.S. border.
He was also asked several times about a secret Facebook group of current and former Border Patrol agents that contained more than 10,000 members and included posts mocking migrants and the deaths of children in custody and suggesting harm to Democratic lawmakers. After the group's existence was revealed by a ProPublica report, McAleenan announced DHS was investigating the "disturbing" and "inexcusable" posts.
"Did you see the posts planning physical harm to myself and Congresswoman Escobar?" Ocasio-Cortez asked McAleenan. "Yes," he answered. "And I directed an investigation within reading the article."
"Did you see the images of officers circulating photoshop images of my violent rape?" Ocasio-Cortez continued. "Yes I did," McAleenan responded.
'A kennel for dogs': Lawmakers hammer acting DHS chief Kevin McAleenan over migrant detention facilities
McAleenan did not specifically say whether those Border Patrol agents were still on the job after Ocasio-Cortez questioned whether they were still "responsible for the safety of migrant women and children."
He said several agents have been put on administrative duties while the investigation continues, saying "I don't know which ones correspond to which posts and we've ordered cease and desist orders to dozens of more."
McAleenan shot back after Ocasio-Cortez asked about whether the separating of children and families led to a "dehumanizing culture" within Customs and Border Protection. "We do not have a dehumanizing culture at CBP," he said touting that the agency, "rescues 4,000 people a year" and is "committed to the well-being of everyone that they interact with."
He said the posts were "unacceptable" but "I don't think it's fair to apply them to the entire organization or that even the members of that group believed or supported those posts."
The hearing came after days of President Trump attacking Ocasio-Cortez and three other freshmen Democratic lawmakers, all women of color who are critical of his administration and its policies.
It started Sunday when Trump sent a series of tweets suggesting Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.; Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.; and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., should "go back" to where they came from.
The House passed a resolution condemning the racist comments on Tuesday as the president faced widespread criticism over the remarks, which he doubled down on at the White House and on Twitter throughout the week.
He singled out the four women Wednesday evening during a rally in North Carolina and his supporters started chanting "send her back" as the president brought up Rep. Omar, who is originally from Somalia and became one of the first two Muslim women in Congress when she was elected in the 2018 midterms. Omar is a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Trump distanced himself from the chants on Thursday, saying, "I disagree with it" and "I wasn't happy with that message."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez grilled DHS chief Kevin McAleenan