President Joe Biden’s administration announced Thursday that the Department of Homeland Security will no longer use horses during border patrol operations after a number of reports, including the El Paso Times and USA Today, mistakenly identified horse reins as whips earlier this week and sparked outrage.
“I can also convey to you that [Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas] also conveyed to civil rights leaders earlier this morning that we would no longer be using horses in Del Rio,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. “So that is a policy change that has been made in response.”
Several images showing horseback agents chasing down fleeing illegal Haitian immigrants circulated online this week, prompting claims that immigrants were being whipped. Despite those reports being debunked and corrected, Psaki said that the Department of Homeland Security has launched an investigation into the claims.
“The narrative out there right now is that these horseback agents were whipping migrants and that is just blatantly false. First off, these agents don’t have whips. What was seen in those photos is they have what are called split reins. They are long. They are used to control the horse. They’ve got a lot of slack to them,” Fox News correspondent Bill Melugin reported.
“I’ve talked to a lot of these horseback agents. They say they will sometimes spin them like a propeller when they want to surge the horse forward. It’s a signal to the horse that they want it to move forward,” he added.
“Nobody was whipped. No migrants were whipped. It was just them using the horses as a physical tool to force those people back into the water,” Melugin continued. “But the agents are very frustrated by the narrative out there.”
According to CNN, the use of horse patrol is only temporarily suspended, a Homeland Security official said.
“We have ceased the use of the horse patrol in Del Rio temporarily. We’ll prioritize other methods for identifying individuals who might be in medical distress,” the DHS official said.
Earlier this week, the National Fraternal Order of Police shared one of the images on Twitter, explaining that the so-called whips were just horse reins.
“For all you Twitter warriors out there: these are NOT whips. And no, Border Patrol agents are NOT ‘whipping’ people. They are REINS… Stay with us here, like a steering wheel is used to drive a car, the reins are used to “drive” the horse. Thanks for coming to our TED talk,” the group wrote.