DHS investigating after images show agents on horseback chasing migrants

Border patrol agents in Del Rio, Texas
Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is investigating the treatment of Haitian migrants by Customs and Border Protection agents after video and images surfaced of agents on horseback chasing down migrants at the southern border.

“DHS does not tolerate the abuse of migrants in our custody and we take these allegations very seriously,” the department said in a statement on Twitter. “We are committed to processing migrants in a safe, orderly, and humane way. We can and must do this in a way that ensures the safety and dignity of migrants.”

Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the matter and has also alerted the DHS inspector general, the department said. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has directed Office of Professional Responsibility personnel to be “on site full-time to ensure that the responsibilities of DHS personnel are executed consistent with applicable policies and training and the Department’s values,” the department said.

Images captured and published by the El Paso Times show agents on horseback chasing down Haitian migrants at the southern border with Mexico. The reporter who wrote the article that the photos accompanied described an agent holding a “whip,” though it’s not clear precisely what the agents had in their hands.

Other photos captured by an AFP photographer show a border agent on a horse grabbing at a migrant aggressively.

In a video captured by Al Jazeera English, a border agent is seen using an expletive to address a migrant while using his horse to steer migrants back toward the river.

Mayorkas, who visited Del Rio on Monday, was asked about the images during a press conference and suggested that the agents were holding long reins to control their horses.

“[Border Patrol Chief Raul] Ortiz explained to me that to ensure control of the horse, long reins are used, but we are going to investigate the facts to ensure that the situation is as we understand it to be and if it is anything different we will respond accordingly,” Mayorkas said. 

Responding to questions at a briefing Monday about the agents apparently using whips, White House press secretary Jen Psaki described images as “horrific” and “horrible” but said the Biden administration is working to gather more information about the situation.

“We just saw this footage. It’s horrible to watch. I just have to get more information on it,” Psaki said. “I can’t imagine the situation where that would be appropriate. … But we have just seen the footage earlier this morning.”

Appearing on CBS News Tuesday morning ahead of Biden’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Psaki said that the president believes the images are “horrific and horrible.”

“I don’t know anyone who could watch that video and not have that emotion,” Psaki said. “This is not who we are. That is not who the Biden-Harris administration is. And we’re going to absolutely pursue that investigation and get to the bottom of what happened here.”

— Updated at 10 a.m.

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Border Patrol CBP DHS horseback Investigation Jen Psaki migrants refugees
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