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DHS not investigating border patrol agents over ‘whipping’ allegations

U.S. Border Patrol agents deter Haitians from returning to the U.S. on the bank of the Rio Grande on Sept. 19, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas. (Omar Ornelas/El Paso Times/TNS)
November 16, 2021

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on Tuesday that its inspector general has declined to investigate horse-mounted border patrol agents accused without evidence of whipping illegal immigrants crossing into the U.S. from Mexico in September.

The September 19 interaction sparked widespread criticism after reins attached to the horses’ bridles held and swung by the border patrol agents were misidentified as whips in photographs taken during the interaction, leading to claims that the agents used whips to round up illegal immigrants.

The Tuesday announcement by the DHS that the department’s inspector general would not investigate the border incident comes nearly two months after Mayorkas’ vowed to conclude the investigation in a matter of days.

In its Tuesday press statement, the DHS said the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) initially referred the investigation to the inspector general’s office.

The inspector general “declined to investigate and referred the matter back to CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility,” the DHS said. 

DHS said that after the inspector general passed off the investigation, the Office of Professional Responsibility “immediately commenced investigative work.”

The Office of Professional Responsibility may still come to a decision as to whether “disciplinary action is appropriate and, if so, the specific discipline to be imposed.”

In the days after the September incident, President Joe Biden described the incident as a scene of “horses nearly running [migrants] over and people being strapped.”

The Biden administration vowed to discontinue the border patrol’s use of horses, at least in the Del Rio, Texas border sector. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at the time, “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. So that is a policy change that has been made in response.”

During a September White House press briefing, Mayorkas said the images of border patrol agents allegedly using whips against illegal immigrants “conjured up the worst elements of our nation’s ongoing battle against systemic racism.”

Mayorkas also told Congress that an undisclosed number of border patrol agents were placed on administrative duty and that the DHS would investigate the incident, USA Today reported. Mayorkas said the investigation would be a high priority and take “a matter of days, not weeks.”