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  • Ali Bradley

DHS completes investigation surrounding BP agents on horseback and Haitian migrants in Del Rio

The photos sent shockwaves across the country— U.S. Border Patrol Agents on horseback wielding split reins while holding a Haitian migrant by the shirt. In the photos, the agent was inaccurately portrayed using the reins to “whip” the migrant and lawmakers and federal leaders were quick to condemn the agents publicly.

Public exoneration didn’t come today despite the report not finding any evidence that migrants were “whipped” or struck by any border patrol agents. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus announcing today that the investigation was finally complete after nearly 10 months.

Photo via AlJazeera

Commissioner Magnus did however address the issues discovered in the investigation and also noted corrective measure being taken by the agency.

“The investigative findings show that the agency failed to appropriately task, supervise, and exercise command and control over the Horse Patrol Units in Del Rio on September 19, 2021. Several Border Patrol Agents used force or the threat of force to attempt to drive migrants back into the Rio Grande River towards the U.S.-Mexico border, though there is no evidence that any migrants were forced to return to Mexico or denied entry to the United States. Additionally, the Office of Professional Responsibility found multiple instances in which Agents acted inappropriately during the incident, including one Border Patrol Agent who was found to have used denigrating and inappropriate language and to have maneuvered his horse unsafely near a child.”

Corrective action outline by the agency includes, changes to practices, training, and operational methods to address management failures that contributed to the incident, stricter limits on the use of the horse patrol, and strengthening leadership and agency accountability.

The U.S. Attorney with the Department of Justice declared no criminal charges would be pressed back on April 11th. The disciplinary process began April 19th according to Commissioner Magnus. He did not address why it took nearly 3 months to publicly declare the investigation was complete.

The two agents involved will receive “minor disciplinary action” according to a DHS source, however CBP would not comment on any of the disciplinary actions being taken.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced an investigation into the treatment of Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas by the agents on horseback. On September 22nd 2021, Secretary Mayorkas vowed a swift investigation saying it would take days not weeks to complete, “I want to assure you that we are addressing this with tremendous speed and tremendous force," Mayorkas said. "The facts will drive the action we take."

Just days later, the photographer who snapped the images and an Associated Press journalist both exonerated the men saying no contact was ever made. That didn’t mean they were exonerated on the same public stage they were condemned on. The men sit quietly on desk duty for the last 9 1/2 months.

The investigation was first handed to the DHS Office of Professional Responsibility however it was soon passed off to CBP. Nothing on the investigation had been reported since November, until today.

The agent response was due to a surge in mostly Haitian migrants from Acuña, Mexico into Del Rio. At one point, nearly 16,000 migrants sat below the Del Rio International Bridge. At least 30,000 migrants tried to enter the country over a two week period last September— The weekend of the Mexican Independence Day holiday.

DHS sources tell me— At the end of the day— The news conference held by CBP today was a self-congratulating effort for completing an investigation with no real results while pushing to punish Agents for doing an impossible job with less than adequate support and training.

Commissioner Magnus says the mounted patrol unit will still be utilized but the agency will assess in what settings the horses are necessary — saying the unit will likely not be used for crowd control.

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