The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, on Monday, Sept. 20, promised that it would launch an internal probe into allegations of border agents using whips to round up Haitian refugees.
“The Department of Homeland Security does not tolerate the abuse of migrants in our custody and we take these allegations very seriously,” a department spokesperson said, according to CBS News.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the matter and has alerted the DHS Office of Inspector General,” the spokesperson added, with the news agency reporting it could result in disciplinary actions.
Photos and videos of Border Patrol officials on horseback chasing after migrants had emerged over the weekend. In some instances, the materials showed a possible use of whips on the asylum seekers who appeared unarmed.
The southern border in Del Rio, Texas, over the past week, had been grappling with a sudden influx of illegal migrants, many of who were Haiti nationals, whose country had been suffering from natural disaster aftermaths, political unrest, hunger, and street crimes.
The migrants crossed back and forth over the Rio Grande river to buy essentials, such as food or drink, while encamped under the Internation Bridge.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, said that the long straps seen in the photographs were reins to control their horses, according to The New York Post.
Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz added that the situation could be tricky for border agents to identify smugglers from migrants.
In a briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said she saw some of the footage but declined to comment as she did not have “have the full context.”
“I can’t imagine what context would make that appropriate. But I don’t have additional details,” she said. “… I don’t think anyone seeing that footage would think it was acceptable or appropriate.”
When asked if the officials should be terminated if they whipped a migrant, Psaki said,
“Of course, they should never be able to do it again. I don’t know what the circumstances would be. It’s obviously horrific—the footage.”
The recent flood of Haitian migrants poses humanitarian, and border security challenges to the White House.
Biden, who scrapped most of his predecessor’s “zero tolerance” border policies, had recently been forced to review some of the rules, including Title 42, a Trump-era expulsion program.
Psaki stressed, we need to “ensure that people who are not coming here lawfully are sent back to the countries they came from.”
The Biden administration had resumed deportation flights to Haiti on Sunday amid growing criticisms of the border crisis.