Texas Border Patrol agents have denied whipping migrants and claimed anyone with ‘two brain cells’ knows they use split reins to control their horses, after images emerged of mounted officers appearing to whip Haitian border crossers.
Agents pushed back against the criticism leveled at them and accused the Biden administration of trying to deflect from its own failings in tackling the migrant crisis.
One unidentified agent told Fox News the outrage over the images shows officials lack ‘basic knowledge’ of handling horses and that the outrage ‘just proves what absolute idiots they are.’
And in a separate interview on Tuesday, National Border Patrol Council Vice President Art Del Cueto insisted the agents were using approved techniques to protect themselves and their horses.
Disturbing photos and video surfaced Sunday appearing to show agents on horseback whipping Haitian migrants with horse reins at the Rio Grande river which connects Mexico and the US.
A Border Patrol officer is swinging what appears to be a lariat while trying to stop Haitian migrants from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge Sunday
The devastating images were captures as migrants were trying to return to their encampment from Mexico, where they were buying much-needed supplies
National Border Patrol Council Vice President Art Del Cueto insisted the footage and photos show agents carrying out approved techniques designed to keep both the agents, the horses safe – and the migrants on the ground – safe
But one unidentified agent denied the images depict physical abuse, saying the reins are used as whips – but on horses, not humans.
‘With basic knowledge and two brain cells, anyone knows those agents use split reins. They do use them as a whip, on their horses,’ the agent said.
‘This helps get a quicker response from the horse to move out when needed, especially when the horse may be hesitant with groups of people or other animals.’
The agent voiced frustration that the officials ‘in charge’ do not understand their roles at the border.
‘Again it is clear that those ‘in charge,’ a term that is disgusting to use, have no clue about our operations and frankly operate by ignorance and unhinged emotions,’ they said.
A second agent told Fox the situation is ‘blowing up’ and that the accusatory response from officials and lawmakers is fueling more anger toward the Biden administration.
‘This whole situation is blowing up and even liberals are turning on this administration,’ one agent told Fox News.
‘[Harris] is placing blame on agents to deflect because she and Biden are not going to change how they are handling this.’
National Border Patrol Council Vice President Art Del Cueto also pushed back against the theory the agents were whipping migrants and insisted the footage and photos show them carrying out approved techniques designed to keep the agents, the horses, and the migrants on the ground safe.
The National Border Patrol Council is the labor union that represents United States Border Patrol agents and support staff.
‘They were not whipping anyone. They don’t carry whips. They don’t get assigned whips,’ he told Fox.
‘What they do is a training technique that has been shown to them to make sure that no one takes over their horse.
‘It was to protect the horse, to protect the rider, and to protect the individual that was trying to cause chaos and knock down that rider from that horse.’
Del Cueto described the process of ‘twirl[ing] the reins to protect everything and make sure everything’s done correctly.’
He added: ‘But nobody was getting whipped, but some members of the media are sure pushing that narrative and our agency and our administration isn’t helping much by not saying something about it.’
An agent is seen grabbing a migrant by the shirt in a photo taken near the border Sunday
U.S. border patrol officers cut the way of migrants asylum seekers as they are trying to return to the United States
Migrants crossing the Del Rio river to head back into the US after gathering supplies in Mexico are confronted by Border Patrol officers on horseback
The images sparked outrage from the White House with Vice President Kamala Harris telling reporters Tuesday she was ‘deeply troubled’ by what she saw.
‘What I saw depicted about those individuals on horseback treating human beings the way they were, was horrible,’ she said.
‘And I fully support what is happening right now, which is a thorough investigation into exactly what is going on there.
‘But human beings should never be treated that way. And I’m deeply troubled about it. And I’ll also be talking to Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas about it today.’
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also condemned the actions of the agents, saying the photos are ‘horrific.’
The images came to light as around 12,000 Haitians were camped out in squalid conditions under a nearby bride in Del Rio, Texas, this weekend after crossing the border to enter America.
DHS Secretary Mayorkas initially said he saw nothing wrong with the situation Monday and that the agents use long reins, not whips, to control their horses.
Mayorkas made the comments as he was in Del Rio on Monday with United States Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz.
Ortiz said he made the decision to deploy the mounted agents to ‘find out if we had any individuals in distress, and be able to provide information and intelligence as to what the smuggling organizations were doing in and around the river.’
He said he was confident the agents were simply ‘trying to control’ their horses but would investigate to make sure there were no ‘unacceptable actions’ by the agents.
But, Mayorkas changed tact hours later, with the DHS releasing a statement Monday night saying it ‘does not tolerate the abuse of migrants in our custody, and we take these allegations very seriously.’
‘The footage is extremely troubling and the facts learned from the full investigation, which will be conducted swiftly will define the appropriate disciplinary actions to be taken,’
Vice President Kamala Harris (pictures Tuesday) said she was ‘deeply troubled’ by what she saw in the video and photos
The statement also said Mayorkas has directed the department’s internal oversight office to send personnel to the camp to oversee agents’ conduct at all times.
‘We are committed to processing migrants in a safe, orderly and humane way,’ it said.
‘We can and must do this in a way that ensures the safety and dignity of migrants.’
Border agents have been struggling to process the influx of migrants who have crossed the border and set up camp under the Del Rio Port of Entry and the International Bridge in recent days to await processing.
Thousands of mostly Haitian migrants traveled to Texas after Joe Biden issued a temporary pause on deportation flights to the country which is in the grips of turmoil following the assassination of its president in July and a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in August.
Many have since fled back across the border after Biden said it would ramp up flights to expel the migrants back to Haiti.
Questions are now mounting over the treatment of migrants at the hands of agents at the border following the emergence of the photos and video Sunday night.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the images ‘horrific’ in her briefing Monday
The video shows agents on horseback, waiting on the US side of the Rio Grande as migrants – some of them families with young children – wade through chest-deep waters trying to cross.
Officers appear to charge their horses toward the migrants carrying food and supplies.
Some of them are swinging their reins, with one clip appearing to show a horse being used to push a migrant back into the water.
In one photo, a mounted agent appears to be grabbing a migrant by the shirt as he tries to flee.
Several Democrats have spoken out against the images, with Psaki saying ‘it’s obviously horrific’.
‘I’ve seen some of the footage, I don’t have the full context, I can’t imagine what context would make that appropriate but I don’t have additional details,’ she said in her press briefing Monday when asked about the footage.
‘I don’t think anyone seeing that footage would think it was acceptable or appropriate.’
She added that it was ‘horrible to watch.’
Several politicians condemned the Border Patrol agent for his behavior on social media
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer condemned the conduct of agents as ‘grotesquely inhumane’.
‘The images of inhumane treatment of Haitian migrants by Border Patrol—including the use of whips—are unacceptable,’ he tweeted.
They are fleeing violence and natural disaster and seeking protection in our country The Administration must uphold our refugee laws and stop Title 42 deportations.’
Rep. Ilhan Omar referred to the officers’ actions as ‘human rights abuses’ and a ‘violation of domestic and international law.’
‘These are human rights abuses plain and simple,’ she tweeted.
‘Cruel, inhumane an a violation of domestic and international law.
‘This needs a course correction and the issuance of a clear directive on ow to humanely process asylum seekers at our border.’
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also tweeted: ‘It doesn’t matter if a Democrat or Republican is president, our immigration system is designed for cruelty towards and dehumanization of immigrants.
‘Immigration should not be a crime, and its criminalization is a relatively recent invention,’ she continued. ‘This is a stain on our country.’
‘You use your women like this? That’s why your country’s s**t’: Mounted Border Patrol officer slams migrants who protect themselves by pushing women in front of them
A furious mounted Border Patrol officer was filmed shouting at an illegal Haitian migrant who appeared to push women in between himself and the horse for protection.
The unnamed guard is heard to shout, ‘You use your women like this? That’s why your country’s sh*t’ at the man during the encounter along the border between Acuna in Mexico and in Del Rio in Texas on Monday.
It is unclear who the migrant was, or whether the women he was with were relatives in the clip shared by Al Jazeera amid President’s Biden latest border disaster.
The group scattered moments after being confronted by the Border Patrol officer, and it is unclear if they made it into the United States, or returned to Mexico.
Footage captured a U.S. patrol officer yelling at Haitian refugees who were crossing into Texas
About 15,000 refugees have made shelter near the Rio Grande in Texas following the departure from their native Haiti
Around 15,000 Haitians have gathered at the southern border after hearing that the US would halt deportations because of instability in their home nation.
The Caribbean island was hit by the assassination of its president Jovenel Moise in June, with its prime minister Ariel Levy named as a suspect in the killing.
And in August, Haiti was hit by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that has killed at least 2,000 people.
The massive instability has been triggered by an unofficial White House amnesty on Haitian migrants crossing into the US.
But the Biden Administration has performed a rapid U-turn in recent days after seeing the influx of migrants crossing into the US, and has now begun deportation flights to Haiti.
Many of those who made it to Del Rio were forced to live in appalling conditions under a bridge in sweltering heat, and have subsequently been bussed away.
Most of those scheduled for deportation are lone adults, with families who have children more likely to be allowed to remain in the United States.
The influx of Haitian people is the latest crisis to hit the Biden Administration, with a huge surge in the number of people caught crossing the southern border in recent months.
A total of 208,887 were apprehended in August, 213,534 in July, and 189,020 in May.
More than 1.5 million have crossed so far this year – triple the 458,000 caught making the same trip last year, although that figure was lower than usual because of COVID.