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A U.S. Border Patrol agent gestures towards migrants being detained after crossing to the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border barrier, on May 19, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

CBP Agents' Coin Mocking Care of Migrant Children Exemplifies Agency's Culture of 'Reflexive Dehumanization,' Critics Say

"Quite clearly, the inhumanness, disrespect, and xenophobia among some CBP agents knows no bounds."

Julia Conley

In just the latest report of Customs and Border Protection agents mocking the arrival of immigrants at the southern U.S. border, ProPublica on Friday revealed an unofficial commemorative coin that Border Patrol agents have circulated for months which derides the care of migrants.

The coin, which has been distributed on both ends of the southern border from California to Texas, features on one side an image of immigrants carrying the Honduran flag with the words "Keep the caravans coming" beneath it. The imagery is an apparent reference to the relatively small group of migrants and asylum seekers who traveled from Central America last fall, and who were the subject of numerous warnings about the so-called dangers of immigration from President Donald Trump and Fox News leading up to the 2018 election.

On the other side, border agents are shown bottle-feeding an infant and fingerprinting a teenage boy, ostensibly for processing as he enters the country. The text "FEEDING ** PROCESSING ** HOSPITAL ** TRANSPORT" is emblazoned on the coin.

The coin, which CBP officials told ProPublica was likely the work of an agent in his or her spare time and was not approved by the agency, "appears to poke fun at the fact that many border agents are no longer out patrolling and instead are now caring for and processing migrants—including families and children," wrote Dara Lind.

According to ProPublica, many border agents feel that their time would be better spent chasing and apprehending people who have crossed the border without going through a port of entry rather than transporting immigrants and providing them with care.

Unofficial "challenge coins" are common in the military to celebrate achievements and build camaraderie, but critics said the coin demonstrated a clear dismissive attitude toward immigrants.

The coin is indicative, former CBP employee Theresa Cardinal Brown told the outlet, of a culture of "reflexive dehumanization" of immigrants.

"You have to say, 'This is affecting the integrity and authority of us all,'" Brown told ProPublica.

On social media, others expressed disgust and outrage at the coin.

The coin was apparently discussed and promoted in the Facebook group in which CBP agents traded lewd and violent comments about progressive congresswomen who have condemned the Trump administration's neglect and abuse of immigrants, and expressed indifference about the deaths of a teenage boy in U.S. custody.

Also on Friday, The Intercept revealed that although she called the agents' comments "completely inappropriate" and expressed surprise about the Facebook group, Border Patrol chief Carla Provost was one of the group's thousands of members.

CBP told ProPublica that it would investigate the coin "for potential trademark violation" because it features the agency's official logo—but not that it objected to agents passing around a coin mocking the care of immigrants.

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