The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed it is investigating a video that appeared to show Border Patrol agents corralling illegal immigrants who crossed into the United States near the Mexican 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, adding that it reviewed the video footage. “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.”
Videos taken by Al Jazeera and Reuters appear to show Border Patrol officials on horseback chasing several illegal aliens who are believed to be from Haiti after they crossed the border near Del Rio, Texas. A video published by Reuters shows the agents twirling long reins for the horses near the illegal aliens.
“I don’t know what the circumstances would be. It’s obviously horrific, the footage. I don’t have any more information on it, so let me venture to do that and we’ll see if there’s more to convey,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, meanwhile, defended the agents’ use of horse patrols around the border but said his department would investigate.
Mayorkas and Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz suggested that claims the agents used the reins on illegal immigrants were false, saying that the reins are used to control the horse.
“We are going to investigate the facts to ensure that the situation is as we understand it to be, and if it’s anything different we will respond accordingly,” Mayorkas said Monday during a news conference near Del Rio.
Ortiz said that the video was captured in the midst of a chaotic situation, where illegal aliens were traveling between the Mexico and U.S. side of the border.
“We do not know who are the smugglers or who are the migrants, so it’s important that those Border Patrol agents maintain a level of security for both themselves and for the migrant population,” Ortiz said, adding that he has ridden on horses for years and noted the difficulty of controlling a horse around a river.
Both Psaki and Mayorkas both reiterated that the U.S.-Mexico border is not open, namely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 10,000 Haitian illegal immigrants in recent days have streamed across the border and made makeshift camps underneath a bridge in Del Rio, sparking concerns that it could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.
On Monday, DHS officials said that some 6,000 illegal aliens were removed from the camp and sent back to Haiti.