Mayorkas Alerted That Border Agents Didn’t Whip Illegal Immigrants, Email Shows 

Mayorkas Alerted That Border Agents Didn’t Whip Illegal Immigrants, Email Shows 
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks at a press briefing at the White House on Sept. 24, 2021 (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Charlotte Cuthbertson
10/14/2022
Updated:
10/14/2022
0:00
The Biden administration was quick to condemn Border Patrol agents on horseback in Del Rio last year after photos showed agents trying to force illegal immigrants back across the Rio Grande into Mexico.

At issue were the agents’ use of reins, which are used to keep people away from the horse to prevent injury, according to Brandon Judd, the head of the Border Patrol union.

Based on the photos, politicians, including the president, condemned the agents for “whipping” or “strapping” the Haitians near the riverbank.

But the photographer, Paul Ratje, said he didn’t see agents whip anyone.

“Some of the Haitian men started running, trying to go around the horses,” Ratje told local station KTSM.

“I’ve never seen them whip anyone. He was swinging it, but it can be misconstrued when you’re looking at the picture.”

A United States Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop illegal immigrants from entering the United States, in Del Rio, Texas, on Sept. 19, 2021. (Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images)
A United States Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop illegal immigrants from entering the United States, in Del Rio, Texas, on Sept. 19, 2021. (Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images)

Marsha Espinosa, assistant secretary of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) public affairs, copied the KTSM article into an email on Sept. 24, 2021, and sent it to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas two and a half hours before he spoke at a White House press briefing. The email was obtained by the Heritage Foundation through a FOIA request.

However, during the press briefing, Mayorkas didn’t attempt to correct the record about the “whipping,” including comments made by President Joe Biden that morning.

Instead, in the briefing, Mayorkas called the images “horrifying” and said they “do not reflect who we are.”

“We know that those images painfully conjured up the worst elements of our nation’s ongoing battle against systemic racism,” Mayorkas said.

He didn’t mention the photographer’s eyewitness account.

An official from the DHS responded to The Epoch Times’ request for comment on the new information regarding the email.

“The reporting on that seems to purposely avoid the facts,” the official said via email on Oct. 14.

“The responsible action in any such scenario is to await the findings of the investigation and not make assumptions from any single press clipping.”

The official pointed to other remarks made by Mayorkas at the same press briefing.

“First of all, the images, as I expressed earlier—the images horrified us in terms of what they suggest and what they conjure up, in terms of not only our nation’s history, but, unfortunately, the fact that that page of history has not been turned entirely. And that means that there is much work to do, and we are very focused on doing it,” Mayorkas said at the briefing.

“But I will not prejudge the facts. I do not, in any way, want to impair the integrity of the investigative process. We have investigators who are looking at it independently. They will draw their conclusions according to their standard operating procedures.”

Thousands of illegal immigrants, mostly Haitians, live in a primitive, makeshift camp under the international bridge that spans the Rio Grande between the U.S. and Mexico while waiting to be detained and processed by Border Patrol, in Del Rio, Texas, on Sept. 21, 2021. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
Thousands of illegal immigrants, mostly Haitians, live in a primitive, makeshift camp under the international bridge that spans the Rio Grande between the U.S. and Mexico while waiting to be detained and processed by Border Patrol, in Del Rio, Texas, on Sept. 21, 2021. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Hours earlier, Biden had disparaged the horse patrol agents.

“To see people treated like they did, horses barely running over, people being strapped … it’s outrageous,” he said during a news conference on Sept. 24, 2021.

“I promise you, those people will pay. There will be an investigation underway now and there will be consequences. There will be consequences.”

The Border Patrol agents involved have been on desk duty since the incident, and Judd says their careers were “ruined” by Biden.

“The president accused them of a criminal act. He has not apologized for that,” Judd told The Epoch Times in an earlier interview.

Eight months after the incident, an internal review found there was “no evidence” that agents “struck any person, intentionally or otherwise.” Further, U.S. prosecutors declined to charge any of the agents involved, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) revealed. Earlier, the DHS Office of Inspector General had declined to investigate the incident.

However, four agents are facing disciplinary charges, CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus told reporters during a briefing on July 8. According to the report, that includes an agent who acted unprofessionally by shouting at an illegal immigrant and nearly coming into contact with a small child on the concrete ramp leading out of the river.

The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Charlotte Cuthbertson is a senior reporter with The Epoch Times who primarily covers border security and the opioid crisis.
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