Several politicians and media outlets claimed Monday that Border Patrol agents were whipping Haitian migrants at the southern border after video and pictures emerged of agents riding horseback with reins.
MSNBC host Joy Reid alleged Monday that Border Patrol agents were using “whips” from the “slave era” to herd migrants at the border.
“I know funding for the government begins in the house,” Reid said while speaking with Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. “Should we be looking at the budget of Department of Homeland Security? Because I was not aware that whips which come from the slave era, slavery era, were part of the package that we issue to any sort of law enforcement or government sanction personnel. Were you aware that was being issued to people, that people had that kind of equipment on them that they could use on humans?”
Omar responded that she was “quite appalled” and alleged that “systematic racism” was at play. (RELATED: ‘Worse Case Scenario’: Democratic Texas Mayor Urges Biden To Take ‘Quick Action’ On Border Crisis)
“The fact that we are dealing with mainly black migrants and black immigrants and asylum seekers at our border in this kind of way really speaks to the kind of racism, systematic racism that is embedded in that department and all of the departments that deal with our immigration policy,” Omar added.
Video and pictures posted to social media appeared to show Border Patrol agents herding their own horses and Haitian migrants who were trying to enter the U.S. near the Del Rio, Texas, area of the border. However, it remains unclear whether agents herded their horses with the reins or were whipping the migrants.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas appeared to deny the use of whips Monday, telling a reporter who questioned the alleged “whipping” of the migrants that they were “assuming facts.”
“You are assuming facts, if I may say respectfully, you are assuming facts that have not yet been determined. Chief Ortiz is an experienced Border Patrol agent who’s ridden horses and trained others to ride horses can provide great detail on the specifics,” Mayorkas said.
The DHS secretary also explained that he was “horrified” to see the images, according to The Washington Post.
Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said horse patrol units were deployed as more than 10,000 mostly Haitian migrants camp out under the Del Rio International Bridge.
“What I asked our horse patrol units to do yesterday is to do an assessment and find out if we had any individuals in distress and to be able to provide information and intelligence as to what the smuggling organizations were doing in and around the river,” Ortiz said.
“As was witnessed in the videos [and] some of the pictures, the migrants were going back and forth,” he continued. “We do not know who are the smugglers or who are the migrants, so it’s important that those Border Patrol agents maintain a level of security for both themselves and for the migrant population as they were trafficking back and forth.”
Ortiz also noted the agency would look into alleged misconduct but added agents are careful not to hurt migrants.
A border patrol agent told Fox News the alleged “whips” were actually just horse reins. “We do not carry whips and the only thing I see in their hands is reins,” the agent reportedly said. “There is no way a horse patrol unit would be whipping aliens. Whips are not issued or authorized for use.”
One Border Patrol source told Townhall agents often spin their reins to deter people from getting too close to horses.
“Agents use their reins for a lot of reasons. Primarily it’s used to steer the horse, but agents will also spin them sometimes to deter people from getting too close to the horse,” the unidentified source reportedly said. “If they get too close, the horse can step on them, breaking bones or causing other injuries. Agents also need to maintain control of their reins so they don’t lose control of the horse, which can cause injuries to immigrants, the agents, and the horses.”
National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd told the outlet that agents are trained to spin their reins to deter people from getting close to migrants.
“You’ll notice none of the pictures show any person being struck by the reins,” Judd reportedly said. “But of course, that’s not going to be the story … We do not strike people, nor was anybody struck in this particular case.”
Still, several others reiterated similar statements to those of Reid and Omar, claiming migrants were being whipped.
Vice News declared agents were “whipping Haitian migrants,” using a photo of two migrants fleeing an agent as proof. In story, however, Vice simply claims the agents were “swinging whips” in the faces of Haitians but stopped short of claiming migrants were actually being whipped.
Border Patrol agents are whipping Haitian migrants at the US-Mexico border in Texas.https://t.co/9sFNCds7Ur
— VICE News (@VICENews) September 20, 2021
Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the images were “a stain on our country.”
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. This is a stain on our country. https://t.co/PZKYN4WLyj
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) September 20, 2021
Democratic Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib called the images “inhumane and wrong” and called for oversight into the situation.
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) September 21, 2021
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said the allegations were “deeply troubling” and that it appeared border agents were using “whips … on horseback to intimidate migrants.”