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Biden administration probes mounted U.S. Border Patrol agents’ use of ‘whips’ to deter Haitians

U.S. expulsion flights to continue in Texas

DEL RIO, Texas – President Joe Biden’s administration is investigating U.S. Border Patrol agents’ use of apparent whips on Haitian migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

A mounted U.S. Border Patrol agent swung his whip “menacingly” while charging his horse toward Haitian migrants who were crossing the Rio Grande on Sunday afternoon, El Paso Times Reporter Martha Pskowski reported.

“Let’s go! Get out now! Back to Mexico!”

The agent shouted at the migrants who had left relatives at the improvised encampment where thousands are waiting in Del Rio, Texas. Some had crossed to buy food and drinks at Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, and were returning to the encampment, according to Pskowski.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection mounted officers attempt to contain migrants as they cross the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acua, Mexico, into Del Rio, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Thousands of Haitian migrants have been arriving to Del Rio, Texas, as authorities attempt to close the border to stop the flow of migrants. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Paul Ratje, a photographer for AFP Getty Images, captured the moment a U.S. Border Patrol agent grabbed one of the Haitian migrants from his horse. Reuters reported one migrant fell as he tried to dodge, and others shielded their heads with their hands. Videos show the agents’ deterrence.

“I don’t think anyone seeing that footage would think it was acceptable or appropriate,” Jen Psaki, a White House spokeswoman, told reporters on Monday.

During a news conference near the encampment, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said misinformation about the availability of temporary protected status was driving the “heartbreaking situation.”

He also said the agents weren’t using whips, but rather long reins that are used to control their horses.

Still, the use of how those long reins were used against the migrants is being highly criticized.

Homeland Security later released a statement saying the images were “extremely troubling” and promised “ appropriate disciplinary actions.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection mounted officers attempt to contain migrants as they cross the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acua, Mexico, into Del Rio, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Thousands of Haitian migrants have been arriving to Del Rio, Texas, as authorities attempt to close the border to stop the flow of migrants. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Haitians in the southwest side of the country endured a 7.2-magnitude earthquake on Aug. 14. A political crisis unraveled after President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination on July 7. There has been increased gang activity during the coronavirus pandemic.

“If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned,” Mayorca said. “Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s life.”

Haitian migrants wade across the Rio Grande from Del Rio, Texas, to return to Ciudad Acua, Mexico, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, to avoid deportation to Haiti from the U.S. The U.S. is flying Haitians camped in a Texas border town back to their homeland and blocking others from crossing the border from Mexico in a massive show of force that signals the beginning of what could be one of America's swiftest, large-scale expulsions of migrants or refugees in decades. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The U.S. expulsion flights of mostly men to Haiti were expected to continue on Tuesday. The U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Department of Defense were assisting. There were some Haitian families with relatives in South Florida who were allowed to stay to apply for asylum.

A couple who identified as John and Julia said in Creole they had arrived at the crowded encampment under the bridge last week after paying human traffickers about $7,000. She said she is 7-months pregnant. He said he was hopeful about their future.

Haitians who were deported from the United States deplane at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport, in Port au Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Sep. 19, 2021. Thousands of Haitian migrants have been arriving to Del Rio, Texas, to ask for asylum in the U.S., as authorities begin to deported them to back to Haiti. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

More reporting from the border

Torres contributed to this report from Miami.


About the Authors:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.