Homeland Security Secretary Alejando Mayorkas on Tuesday said he was “horrified” by images of mounted Border Patrol agents using their horses to keep Haitian migrants from crossing into the US, as his agency launches an investigation into the allegations — despite claiming Monday during a trip to the site that he saw nothing obviously wrong with how the agents acted.
Photos and videos have surfaced since the weekend that show the agents chasing and herding the illegal immigrants as they exit the Rio Grande river on the US side of the border, and some critics say the images appear to show the officers using their reins as “whips.”
One photo showed a Border Patrol agent leaning over his saddle to grab a man running into the US by the shirt.
Speaking during a visit to the border on Monday, where as many as 14,000 Haitian migrants have gathered in Del Rio, Texas over the past week, Mayorkas noted that mounted agents often use long reins to help control their horses and to keep people from coming too close, an explanation repeated by Jon Anfinsen, the president of the Border Patrol union in the Del Rio sector.
“To protect people on the ground, they must keep them away from the horses because if a horse steps on someone, the person could get a broken leg or other injury,” Anfinsen said. “If agents lose control of their horses, agents and immigrants can get hurt.”
But in an interview on CNN Tuesday morning, Mayorkas said he was “horrified by what I saw” and will let the investigation play out.
“That is not what our policies and our training require. Please understand, let me be quite clear, that is not acceptable. We will not tolerate mistreatment, and we will address it with full force based on the facts that we learn,” he said.
DHS announced the investigation on Monday after seeing the images.
“DHS does not tolerate the abuse of migrants in our custody and we take these allegations very seriously,” it said on Twitter. “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.”
The Biden administration, scrambling to contain the mounting crisis on the US-Mexico border, launched a massive operation to stop the thousands of Haitians from entering the US and to begin deportation flights to return the illegal immigrants to Haiti.
The US government has also bolstered the number of Border Patrol agents in the region, closed an entry port, rerouted civilian traffic and pleaded with people not to try to cross the border into America.
Mayorkas repeated that message in the CNN interview, saying many of the people have been tricked by smugglers.
“It is heartbreaking to see, because what we are seeing is vulnerable individuals, having been deceived by smuggling organizations and misinformation take the perilous journey north when we have been quite clear that it will not be successful,” he said.
“And that is not what they should do. It is heartbreaking to see these individuals. It is a human tragedy, and we are addressing it as best we can under the laws that we are employing now,” Mayorkas continued.
He said the government has moved more than 4,000 of the Haitian migrants camped out under a bridge near Del Rio and are continuing the deportation flights, adding “we expect to see dramatic change in the next 48 to 96 hours.”
Many of the Haitian migrants began the journey to the US from countries in South America where they had been living since an earthquake in 2010.
Others have fled Haiti since another devastating earthquake last month and political unrest caused by the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise in his home the month before.
With Post wires