WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – U.S. border patrol agents on horseback were engaged in “unnecessary use of force” against non-threatening Haitian immigrants, but did not hit anyone with their reins “intentionally or otherwise,” according to a federal investigation into chaotic scenes along the Texas-Mexico border last fall that provoked widespread condemnation.
In a 511-page report released Friday, Customs and Border Protection blames a “lack of command control and communication” for mounted agents who use their horses to block and move migrants by force during an influx of Haitians last September arrived at the U.S. border outside Del Rio. , Texas.
“We are going to learn from this incident and we will find a way to do better,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said during a news conference announcing the report. “Not everyone will like all the findings, but the investigation was comprehensive and fair.”
Video and photos of the incident made it appear as if agents were whipping Haitians, causing outrage among advocacy groups and civil rights leaders. The Biden administration has promised a full investigation after many in the president’s own party objected that such tactics with racial overtones are the kind of policy the US is supposed to move away from after years of harsh immigration tactics under President Donald Trump .
Magnus, a former police chief, took over the country’s largest law enforcement agency in December and is being closely watched by the shepherd of the ongoing investigation. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement on Friday that “the organizational failures of policies, procedures and training that identified the investigation were a disservice to the agents and the public they serve.”
Last fall, Biden called images of what happened “awful” and “outrageous.”
“I promise you, those people will pay,” the president then said. “An investigation is currently underway and there will be consequences.”
Asked whether the politically charged environment is hampering the investigation, Magnus said “it is inevitable, certainly not surprising, that there will be a response from the community, from those in the media of elected officials, from different advocacy groups. “
But he said he had instructed investigators “that all these things should be set aside, to be disregarded.”
“I relied on them to do a fair, ongoing, comprehensive investigation with no attention to this outside influence,” Magnus said.
By September 19, 2021, approximately 15,000 Haitian migrants had crossed from Mexico to the United States and were concentrated in a camp under the International Bridge.
Magnus said the investigation began the day after the incident and included testimony from more than 30 people, including witnesses and journalists. Investigators said they could not locate Haitian migrants involved in obtaining their accounts – but used statements and court documents provided by some as part of lawsuits they filed against U.S. authorities.
Magnus said four Border Patrol personnel had been recommended for disciplinary action for their behavior, although he declined to discuss exactly what each had done to justify possible punishment, or to elaborate on what sanctions they could face. This comes after prosecutors in April refused to pursue criminal charges, he said.
Disciplinary action is separate from Friday’s findings and will only be announced later. All four CBP officials have been on administrative duty since the investigation began, according to senior agency officials who informed reporters before Friday’s report was released.
Mark Morgan, a former acting CBP commissioner under Trump, dismissed the entire investigation as politically motivated, as no Haitians were actually beaten.
“From the beginning, these agents have been smeared, lied to and slandered by almost everyone on the left,” Morgan said in a statement.
Federal investigators said no migrant was beaten with a whip, forced to return to Mexico or denied entry to the U.S. during the approximately 15 minutes they were forcibly blocked and relocated by mounted agents. One agent shouted inappropriate remarks about a migrant’s national origin, including, “You use your wives,” while also just failing to crash his horse into a child walking nearby while he was a migrant pursued.
Agents acted with the permission of their supervisor, who was unable to obtain guidance from higher up on the border patrol command chain, the report said. Communication took place on a radio channel that was not recorded, which further complicated the investigation into the incident.
The use of force drove migrants back to the Rio Grande, despite being well within US territory and posing no threats – which was contrary to CBP’s mission, the report found.
It also said the incident began after authorities from a state agency that also worked in the area asked the Texas Department of Public Safety for help from federal authorities.
That conclusion follows Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who this week authorized state forces to arrest migrants and send them back to the U.S.-Mexico border – raising questions about his state’s enforcement forces as top GOP leaders slammed the Biden administration for failing to curb rising numbers. of crossings.
Magnus said Friday that his agency “has a shared interest with Texas” in “maintaining a secure, orderly, humane immigration process,” and that federal officials are “ready to work with Texas to achieve these goals.” . “
“But the challenge is that when any state, like Texas, takes unilateral action, it just makes it harder for us to do it,” he added.