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Records Show Border Patrol Agents Joked About Killing Migrant Children

U.S. Border Patrol agents have been found using the derogatory term "tonk" to describe unauthorized migrants in government communications, often in contexts that allude to violence and mistreatment. The term, thought to originate from the sound of hitting a migrant's head with a flashlight, was used in emails and texts from 2017 to 2020. Despite its condemnation by officials in Washington, the usage of this slur remains common among agents, even as some casually joked about the serious harm or death of migrants, including children.

The discovery of these communications, disclosed through the Freedom of Information Act, marks another troubling insight into the culture within the Border Patrol, a culture that often shows contempt for migrants. This contempt was also evident in the way agents referred to COVID-19 as the "Tonk flu" and made light of protective measures against the virus.

Border Patrol's official stance, as stated by a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson, is that derogatory language is unacceptable, and any such incidents are referred to the Office of Professional Responsibility for investigation.

However, the emails suggest a persistent tolerance and occasional endorsement of such attitudes within the agency, even as some agents expressed a form of right-wing defiance against more politically correct or humane approaches to their duties. The pervasive use of "tonk" within the agency highlights deep-seated issues of racism and dehumanization that contradict official policies and public statements by the agency's leadership.


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