Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that a probe into the actions of mounted Border Patrol agents confronting mostly Haitian asylum-seekers who crossed the southern border illegally would conclude quickly and be made public.
Mayorkas made the comments at a Sept. 24 White House press briefing, in which he said the agents involved in the incident had been reassigned to administrative duties and horse patrols have been suspended in the area.
Photographs and video surfaced earlier in the week showing Border Patrol officers on horseback riding close to and grabbing at illegal immigrants in the Del Rio, Texas, region.
Commenting on the incident, Mayorkas said the “entire nation saw horrifying images that do not reflect who we are, who we aspire to be, or the integrity and values of our truly heroic personnel in the Department of Homeland Security,” adding that “the department does not tolerate any mistreatment of any migrant and will not tolerate any violation of its values, principles, and ethics.”
At the same time, Mayorkas said he would not “prejudge the facts” nor “impair the integrity of the investigative process,” which will take its course and produce results that would be made public.
A top Border Patrol union official, Brandon Judd, told The Epoch Times this week that agents were not whipping their reins at the illegal immigrants, a claim made by some of those commenting on the images.
“Agents have to keep the migrants away from the horses for their own protection. And so they will use the reins, to twirl the reins, so that they will stay away from the horses. But they do not use those reins to lash out, to try to strike people. Those agents did not use those reins in any way, shape, or form to try to strike anybody,” he said, adding that horses are used as a “deterrent technique” to prevent people from entering the country illegally.
A photographer who captured images of Border Patrol agents on horseback near an influx of Haitians who illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border said he didn’t see the agents whip anyone.
“Some of the Haitian men started running, trying to go around the horses,” photographer Paul Ratje told local station KTSM, explaining the situation. “I’ve never seen them whip anyone,” he said. “He was swinging it, but it can be misconstrued when you’re looking at the picture.”
Nearly 30,000 illegal immigrants have been encountered in the Del Rio area since Sept. 9, with the highest number at one time reaching around 15,000, with many camping out under an international bridge near the border, Mayorkas said.
The DHS chief said that the camp has now been cleared and officials continue to expel individuals who entered the United States illegally under Title 42 authority. So far, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has carried out 17 expulsion flights to Haiti, involving around 2,000 individuals, according to Mayorkas.
Asked about what happened to the 15,000 or so individuals camped out under the bridge, Mayorkas said some have been returned to Haiti, others have been moved to processing facilities along the border, where “many” will be returned to Haiti. While he did not provide detailed figures, Mayorkas said some of the individuals who qualify for asylum on grounds of fleeing persecution from their home country would not be returned to Haiti but would be placed in immigration enforcement proceedings.
President Joe Biden said Friday he takes full responsibility for the chaos at the U.S. southern border and vowed the border patrol officers photographed dispersing illegal immigrants while on horseback “will pay.”
“Of course, I take responsibility, I’m president,” said Biden while taking questions from reporters Friday. “It was horrible what you saw, to see people treated like they did, horses nearly running them over, people being strapped. It’s outrageous. I promise you those people will pay. They will be—an investigation underway now and there will be consequences.”
Regarding comments made by White House officials, Judd told The Epoch Times that Border Patrol officials feel abandoned in the wake of a burgeoning crisis.
contributed to this report.