DHS Announces Investigation into Horse Border Patrol Agents Who Apparently Use Whips On Haitian Migrants
Customs and Border Protection has launched a formal investigation into mounted officers using what appeared to be whips as they tried to prevent mostly Haitian migrants from stepping on American soil.
“I was shocked by what I saw,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told CNN on Tuesday morning.
“I’m going to let the investigation run its course,” he added. “But the pictures I saw worried me a lot. That defies all the values we want to instill in our people.’
A DHS spokesperson said the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility will “determine appropriate disciplinary action” against those who used whips to prevent asylum seekers from entering the US and detaining others for deportation.
The investigation comes after widespread condemnation of the ‘horrific’ and disturbing scenes emerged of mounted officers chasing and detaining migrants on foot. One image met the most opposition when an officer unwound a rope resembling a lasso and waved it near a migrant’s face.
Mayorkas instructed the CBP office to have full-time staff on site to ensure that DHS staff responsibilities are performed in accordance with applicable policies and training and the department’s values.
Footage of Border Patrol officers on horseback began to surface Sunday as the Department of Homeland Security ramped up deportation by resuming removal flights of Haitian migrants back to their home countries after those flights were interrupted by President Joe Biden in February.
Mainly Haitian migrants wade across the Rio Grande River from Del Rio, Texas, on Tuesday as they return to Ciudad Acuna, Mexico to avoid deportation to their homeland
Migrants gather under a tent on Tuesday to register with local immigration officials after being flown out of the makeshift camp in Del Rio, Texas
CBP Office of Professional Responsibility launches investigation into border police officers using whip or lasso as they try to prevent Haitian migrants from entering a camp on the banks of the Rio Grande in Del Rio, Texas
Footage of officers using whips on horses was captured as migrants tried to return to their makeshift camp from Mexico, where they bought supplies
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on CNN on Tuesday that he is “shocked” by the images but “will let the investigation run its course”
Three planes full of Haitian migrants took off from San Antonio on Sunday and landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, prompting thousands to make the return journey across the Rio Grande River from Del Rio, Texas, on Monday.
In recent weeks, about 15,000 mostly Haitian migrants have set up camp near and under the Del Rio International Bridge on the US side of the border with Mexico. They used a dam of knee- and thigh-high water to pull back and forth across the border.
On Sunday, however, officers and officers on horseback began to prevent migrants returning to the camp from setting foot on American soil again. They were also rounding up illegal immigrants to be put on flights back to their home countries.
DHS also sent additional personnel to oversee future border patrol operations near the makeshift encampment, after it already dispatched 400 border agents and officers to the area to help quell the migratory flow to Del Rio.
The agents and officers rounded up the mostly Haitian migrants for deportation flights or tried to prevent them from setting foot back on U.S. soil as the government ramps up efforts to suppress illegal immigration on the southern border
Migrants began to return from Del Rio and retreat to Ciudad Acura, Mexico. Here a man walks over medium water in the Rio Grande River and returns to Mexico to avoid deportation
Haitian migrants wade across the water back to Mexico on Tuesday so they won’t be deported back to Haiti by the US after several flights were returned in the past two days
The agency’s new goal is to get about seven removal flights from the US back to migrants’ home countries every day.
When asked on Tuesday whether the new scenes from the border represent a crisis, Mayorkas didn’t go that far, calling it a “heartbreaking situation” and a “huge challenge”.
“I’m in no way detracting from the humane issue it presents, but I want to be clear that we have a plan to address it, respecting the needs of the individuals, and we’re executing that plan,” he told CNN. .
Mayorkas added that 4,000 or more migrants have already been moved from the bridge camp and saw a “dramatic change” in the situation “in the next 48 to 96 hours”.
The announcement of a formal investigation came amid outcry.
Mayorkas’s comments echoed those of White House press secretary Jen Psaki when she called the images “horrific.”
“I don’t think anyone seeing those images would think it’s acceptable or appropriate,” Psaki said during her press conference on Monday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the reports “deeply disturbing,” adding that Congress “will continue to monitor developments closely.”
“All migrants seeking asylum should be treated in accordance with the law and with basic decency,” the California Democrat wrote in a statement Monday night.
Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer called the images “inhumane” and called on the Biden administration to “stop Title 42 deportations”
Progressive squad members Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar denounced the use of whips, calling it “human rights violations” and alleging that the US has made immigration a crime
“Any form of aggression or violence cannot be tolerated and must be investigated. The situation facing Haitian migrants at the border is heartbreaking and Congress will continue to monitor developments closely.”
Mayorkas issued a stern warning on Monday to Haitian nationals attempting to enter the US after he became the first Biden government official to visit the border in Del Rio.
“If you come to the United States illegally, you will be sent back. Your journey will fail and you will endanger your life and that of your family,” he said.
The secretary said he had brought about 600 Homeland Security personnel, including from the National Guard, to Del Rio to help with what he described as a “challenging and heartbreaking situation.”
He said he has asked the Department of Defense for help with what may be one of the fastest, large-scale expulsions of migrants and refugees from the US in decades.