Border Patrol agents failed to hit Del Rio migrants, report says

Mounted Border Patrol agents who confronted Haitian families last September along the shores of Del Rio, Texas, did not hit the migrants with their reins but used “unnecessary” force and did not not received proper guidance from supervisors, according to a long-awaited internal report. released on Friday.

Widely released footage of the incident along the Rio Grande showed US agents waving reins and shouting obscenities while briefly trying to stop families bringing food into a sprawling and chaotic camp where 15,000 migrants arrived to seek entry into the United States.

Photos and videos of the confrontation have angered President Biden and Democrats who said officers whipped the migrants, likening the scene to brutal imagery of American slavery. Biden said the migrants had been “tied up” and penalties would be issued after a prompt investigation.

After nearly nine months, the Office of Professional Accountability of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which serves as the agency’s internal affairs division, determined in a 511-page report that no migrants had been beaten or deprived of his legal right to seek asylum in the United States. . But the report found the officers used unnecessary force and their decision to help Texas state troopers block the migrants conflicted with Border Patrol goals.

The internal report found “deficiencies at multiple levels of the agency, a lack of appropriate policies and training, and unprofessional and unsafe behavior by multiple individual officers,” CBP said in a statement.

Federal prosecutors who reviewed the incident announced in March that they would not pursue criminal charges. The internal report released on Friday did not make any specific sanctions recommendations.

Its findings were sent to a CBP Disciplinary Review Board, and a senior agency official will determine what sanctions, if any, will fall on the officers, according to CBP officials who briefed reporters on Friday. Officers were reassigned to administrative duties following the incident.

Biden convicted the officers last year amid public outcry at the scene of horses charging at fleeing families and young children.

“It’s horrible what you saw. To see people like them, with horses, run over them, people tied up, it’s outrageous,” Biden said at the time. “These people are going to pay,” he said, referring to officers. “There is an ongoing investigation at the moment and there will be consequences.”

Vice President Kamala Harris echoed those comments during an appearance on ABC’s “The View,” saying the scenes “conjured up images of some of the worst times in our history, where this type of behavior was used against the indigenous peoples of our country, was used against African Americans during the time of slavery.

Video footage did not show anyone being beaten, but some officers acted in ways that were not in line with official conduct. In one case captured by Al Jazeera and shared widely on social media, an officer confronted a man whose family was transporting goods, shouting “Hey! That’s why your country is shit! You use your women for that!

The officer who used “derogatory and vulgar” language also endangered the safety of a child with his horse, according to the report.

CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus told reporters that Biden and Harris’ statements did not prejudge the outcome of the investigation. “I don’t believe there were any issues of outside influence,” said Magnus, who said he told investigators to disregard “anything they heard outside of their own work.” “.

The incident occurred during a tense moment for Border Patrol. Over several weeks, thousands of migrants, mostly from Haiti, forded the Rio Grande, camping under a border bridge and building makeshift shelters in the brush.

As the water in the camp ran out, migrants and vendors began going back and forth to Mexico for supplies, which the Border Patrol cleared.

Migrants arriving at the camp were given colored paper tickets to indicate when they had arrived, and families crossing Mexico for supplies attempted to show agents on horseback their tickets as they crossed.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R), a fierce critic of Biden’s immigration policies, had ordered Department of Public Safety soldiers to block another crossing point along the river by parking their vehicles is a tight formation he called a “wall of steel”.

Border Patrol officials accepted the move because the crossing point — across a weir with dangerous currents — has been the site of drownings, officials said.

On September 19, as migrants bathing in the Rio Grande attempted to return from Mexico to a boat ramp area, Texas state troopers attempted to block them. Mounted Border Patrol agents had been ordered to help state troopers, and when they asked a supervisor for advice, they were told to help, according to the report.

This was in fact not what Border Patrol supervisors wanted, having determined that the agency could not adequately supply the camp and that migrants would have to be temporarily allowed to travel back and forth to Mexico to escape. supply, according to the report.

Mounted patrol officers gave “inconsistent responses” to investigators’ questions about whether the aggressive manner in which they swung their reins was consistent with CBP training, according to the report. They also gave mixed responses to questions about their preparedness for crowd control events and operations, he added.

CBP officials who briefed reporters on the findings said many other officers at Del Rio performed their duties admirably under extreme duress.

“There is no justification for the actions of some of our staff, including unprofessional and deeply offensive conduct,” Magnus said. “Unfortunately, this incident overshadowed the incredible law enforcement and humanitarian efforts of our officers in Del Rio last September.”

The Del Rio crisis ended after the Biden administration began bringing many of the camp’s migrants back to Haiti as part of the pandemic-related Title 42 public health policy.

Some asylum seekers have been released in the United States, but thousands more have returned to Mexico to avoid rapid deportation to their devastated homeland.

Most migrants from Del Rio camp were sent to Haiti or returned to Mexico, DHS figures show

The September 19 standoff along the riverbanks occurred on what officials described as the most difficult day of the episode, when crowds were largest, supplies were low and tensions were high.

The CBP Disciplinary Review Board proposed sanctions for four officers, according to the statement. Potential penalties for officers could range from suspensions without pay to a less severe “letter of reprimand” noting improper conduct, according to former CBP officials familiar with the agency’s disciplinary process.

Rep. John Katko (R-New York), the prominent GOP member of the House Homeland Security Committee, lambasted the report’s findings and blamed Biden for the incident.

“This report is nothing more than a desperate attempt by the Biden administration to justify its initial rush to find these Border Patrol agents guilty of misconduct,” Katko said in a statement.

“So they made it their mission to save face and set an example of these Border Patrol agents, who were just trying to manage the unsustainable humanitarian and security crisis that President Biden handed to them,” said he declared.

The Border Patrol Union posted statements on Twitter on Friday, slamming the Biden administration for “hypocrisy of rank,” and called the president, vice president, and secretary Mayorkas “liars.”

The senior union official did not respond to a request for comment, but is expected to challenge any proposed disciplinary action for the officers.

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