(Trends Wide) — White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday the government is seeking more information about the “horrifying” viral videos that appear to show Border Patrol agents on horseback confronting Haitian refugees at the US border. .
“I’ve seen some of the images. I don’t have the full context. I can’t imagine what context would make it appropriate, but I don’t have additional details, and I certainly have no additional context,” Psaki said at the White House press conference. “I don’t think anyone who sees those images would think it is acceptable or appropriate.”
Videos recorded by Al Jazeera and Reuters appear to show officers on horseback using aggressive tactics when confronting migrants, including beating the reins of horses near migrants who crossed the US-Mexico border near Del Rio, Texas. .
Reuters video shows officers on shore, spinning the long reins as migrants cross the border on the US shore of the Rio Grande. At one point in the video, the agent’s horse nearly rammed one of the migrants, who fell backward into the water.
In the Al Jazeera video, an officer on horseback is seen turning the long reins near a group of migrants. Shortly before, another individual on horseback is heard shouting at the migrants, saying: “Do you use your women? That is why your country is a shit, because they use their women for this.”
Although the insult is edited in the video report, Al Jazeera reporter John Holman posted the full quote on his Twitter account and attributed it to an unidentified Border Patrol agent.
Then, as the agents try to corner the migrants, one of them appears to turn the reins of the horse near one of the migrants.
The scene unfolded near a crowded makeshift camp in Del Rio, where thousands of migrants, including families, pregnant women, and babies, have gathered under the Del Rio International Bridge. They sleep on the ground, surrounded by growing piles of garbage, exposed to the elements and without much food or water, hoping to be processed by the US Border Patrol, which is overwhelmed.
“I can’t imagine what the scenario is where it would be appropriate, I’m certainly not suggesting that, but we just saw the footage this morning,” he said. When asked if the officers seen in the images should be fired for their actions in dealing with migrants, Psaki said: “Of course they should never be able to do it again.”
“I don’t know what the circumstances would be. Obviously the images are horrible. I don’t have any more information about it, so let me get it and we’ll see if there is more to convey,” he said.
National Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, at a press conference near the border on Monday, defended the use of horse patrols, but said the department would investigate the situation.
In a series of tweets Monday night, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it “does not tolerate abuse of migrants in our custody” and that the Customs and Protection Office of Professional Responsibility US border is investigating the incident.
The department said Mayorkas “directed that the Office of Professional Responsibility staff be on site full time to ensure that DHS staff responsibilities are carried out in accordance with applicable policies and training and Department values.”
“The images are extremely disturbing and the facts of the full investigation, which will be carried out quickly, will define the appropriate disciplinary actions that will be taken.”
Earlier on Monday, Mayorkas had said, according to US Border Patrol Chief Raúl Ortiz, that reins are used to ensure control of the horse.
“But we are going to investigate the facts to make sure the situation is as we understand it, and if it is different, we will respond accordingly,” he said.
Speaking with Mayorkas, Ortiz said horse patrol units play an integral role in the security response in Del Rio. “As you know, we have about half of this area blocked, and we are working to try to completely block the other side of the bridge,” he said.
Ortiz said he had asked the horse patrol unit to conduct an assessment Sunday to find out if anyone was in danger and to provide information and intelligence on the trafficking organization’s activities in and around the river.
“As seen in the video and some of the photos, the migrants came and went. We do not know who the smugglers are or who the migrants are, so it is important that these Border Patrol agents maintain a level of security both for themselves and for the migrant population, ”he said.
Ortiz, who said he has ridden on horseback for several years, also pointed to the difficulty of operating in a riparian environment on horseback.
Keeping control of the horses “so that we don’t put ourselves in a position where we injure a migrant while trying to make that treacherous journey across the river is probably more important than anything else,” he said. “And I’m pretty sure and confident that’s exactly what was happening, but we will certainly look into the matter, to make sure we don’t have any activity that could be construed as a response to an unacceptable law enforcement effort.”
When asked if waving the long reins around migrants was a humane way to treat them, Mayorkas responded by saying: “He is assuming facts that have yet to be determined.”
Many of the Haitians currently on the border are believed to have been living in South America after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, but the toll from the coronavirus pandemic in the region fueled migration to the southern United States border. .
Haiti is also continuing to recover from an earthquake in August that killed more than 2,000 people and injured thousands more, as well as the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July. For those reasons, more than 50 Democratic lawmakers urged the Biden administration in a letter earlier this month to stop deportations to the country.
With information from Paul Murphy