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Border Agency Investigating Employee's Actions After Halloween Sign Offends Some In Presidio

Pictures of the sign posted outside a CBP employee housing complex made the social media rounds on Halloween.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has launched an internal investigation after one of its employees in Presidio hung up a sign on Halloween telling trick-or-treaters that only Americans would receive candy from that employee's house.

"Solo las familias Americanas recibirán dulces," the sign read.

As the Big Bend Sentinel first reported, it was posted outside a government-owned housing complex for CBP employees and their families. The sign offended some in Presidio, a largely cross-border community with Ojinaga across the border in Mexico.

The name of the employee hasn't been released. CBP Spokesperson Bill Brooks said the agency will be looking into whether the employee’s actions violated any agency rules or policies.

If so, disciplinary action would follow, but Brooks couldn’t say what kind of action that would be.

"The investigation will be thorough, will be professional, and when it's finished it's finished," Brooks said.

CBP previously apologized for the incident in a statement.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Big Bend Sector regret that an employee chose to post the sign in question at his residence during Halloween," the statement read.

"The sign does not reflect the opinion of this agency. We respect all people regardless of their culture, nationality or country of origin. We apologize for any harm this incident may have created in our relationship with the community.”

Presidio Mayor John Ferguson responded to the incident on Facebook, describing Halloween as a holiday that the city shares "without anyone from Mexico (and elsewhere) who want to join in on 'Trick-or-Treating.'"

"I always cherish being able to experience the many festive occasions in our sister city of Ojinaga, such as Dia de los Muertos, 20 de Noviembre, 16 de Septiembre, and Dia de Los Musicos, to name a few," the mayor's statement read.

"No one has ever told me I couldn't be a part of the celebration on these days in Mexico because I am a U.S. citizen. By the same token, I want to encourage everyone in our community to continue to treat visitors with open hearts and open arms, as we would hope they would do the same for us in their homes."

It's not clear if the agency will release the name of the employee who posted the sign.

"We normally don't release the names of our employees," Brooks said. "They have a right to privacy."

The El Paso-based immigration reform advocacy group Border Network for Human Rights says it plans to submit a formal complaint to CBP next week, along with a list of questions about the agency's policies related to the posting of the sign.

"We are expecting a response from them," the group's spokesperson Gabriela Castañeda said.

"We've been having good communication with law enforcement agencies here in El Paso, and we are expecting a response from this, because we know they must be accountable to the communities they serve."

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.