A new report from the internal Customs and Border Protection watchdog says that Border Patrol agents on horseback did not whip Haitian migrants crossing the border in 2021, but did use unnecessary force, and blamed Texas law enforcement officials for asking the agents to push the migrants back into Mexico.
“[Border Patrol] personnel carried out an operation at the request of [the Texas Department of Public Safety] which directly contravened USBP operational objectives and resulted in the unnecessary use of force against migrants,” said the report from the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility. The report also said that the Texas “personnel involved in the incident declined to provide any information when asked about the operational objectives of TXDPS.”
By Sept. 19, 2021, about 15,000 Haitian migrants had gathered underneath the international bridge from Mexico to Del Rio, Texas. Many then attempted to cross the Rio Grande into the U.S. via a boat ramp less than half a mile from the legal U.S. port of entry.
Photographers took pictures of members of a Border Patrol Horse Patrol chasing Haitian migrants, grabbing the shirt of at least one migrant and swirling the reins of their horses in an allegedly intimidating manner. Some news organizations reported that the agents seemed to be “whipping” the migrants.
After interviews with agents and supervisors as well as journalists who were present, the report concluded there was “no evidence” that the agents “involved in this incident struck, intentionally or otherwise, any migrant with their reins.” Members of the Horse Patrol Unit use split reins that can be swirled to direct their horses.
The report did find, however, that agents “used force or the threat of force to drive migrants back into the Rio Grande River despite the fact they were well within the territorial boundary of the United States.” Border Patrol agents are supposed to arrest people who have crossed into the U.S. between legal ports of entry, not push them back into the river or into Mexico.
One agent also “acted in an unprofessional manner,” according to the report by yelling at a migrant male who was hiding behind women and children, “’Hey! You use your women? This is why your country’s s---, you use your women for this.’”
Texas officials, according to the report, were responsible for blocking a portion of the Rio Grande riverbank, with the result that the migrants attempted to use the boat ramp to enter the U.S. The Texas officials then allegedly asked the federal agents to help them push migrants back into the river, which was not part of the Border Patrol plan of action.
In a statement, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said, "The misconduct of several individuals does not reflect the brave and distinguished service of the agents of the United States Border Patrol. The organizational failures of policy, procedures, and training that the investigation identified were a disservice to the agents and the public they serve. CBP must and will do better."
The Texas Department of Public Safety did not immediately respond to a request for comment.