United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents caught in a media firestorm over photos critics claim shows them “whipping” Haitian migrants have been placed on desk duty while the incident is investigated, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Wednesday.
Several agents were targeted by progressive activists after photos emerged showing them on horseback attempting to corral Haitian migrants who were trying to cross into the United States illegally. The photos appear to show the agents using split reins to control their horses, not whips, and are seen grabbing, not whipping, the pictured migrants.
The photos emerged just as attention re-focused on the Biden administration’s ongoing border crisis. Last week, a video, taken by Fox News reporter Bill Melugin showed thousands of Haitian migrants packed under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, seeking out shelter while waiting to be processed by border officials. The Biden administration responded, initially, by utilizing the Trump-era “Title 42” policy, expelling around a thousand Haitian immigrants on flights to Port-au-Prince without processing their asylum claims under the guise of concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
On Tuesday, it emerged that the Biden administration has also been expediting the Haitian migrants’ asylum claims. As The Daily Wire reported, “Haitians have been freed on a ‘very, very large scale’ in recent days, according to one U.S. official who put the figure in the thousands … [the] official, who has direct knowledge of operations, was not authorized to discuss the matter Tuesday and spoke on condition of anonymity.”
On Wednesday, Majorkas, testifying on a separate issue, told a House Committee that the agents pictured on horseback have been shifted to desk duty pending an investigation.
“Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who initially backed the agents before changing his stance amid outrage from the White House and left-wing Democrats, told a House Committee that the agents had been taken off the frontlines amid an investigation that he expected to take days, rather than weeks,” Fox News said Wednesday.
“We have ensured that the individuals during the pendency of the investigation are not conducting law enforcement duties to interact with migrants, but rather are conducting only administrative duties,” Mayorkas told the Committee.
“The facts will drive the actions that we take,” he said. “We ourselves will pull no punches and we need to conduct this investigation thoroughly, but very quickly. It will be completed in days, if not weeks.”
Several prominent Democrats, including leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Vice President Kamala Harris have continued to claim that the agents were using “whips.” But Mayorkas himself clarified that Monday that he did not see anything wrong with the images. According to Fox News, “Mayorkas pointed out agents use long reins to control their horses, not whips, in difficult terrain. [Border Patrol Chief Raul] Ortiz also noted that agents don’t know who are smugglers and who are migrants.”
The White House then weighed in, saying that “anyone seeing that footage would think it was acceptable or appropriate.”
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