The Department of Homeland Security said it would "swiftly" investigate Border Patrol agents accused of beating Haitian migrants with ropes, CBS News reports.
Video and photographs surfaced of Border Patrol agents on horseback swinging lariats, a rope used by horse riders while trying to divert Haitian migrants from crossing the border. In one photograph, an agent almost lunged out of his saddle in an attempt to apprehend a man by his shirt while he was carrying bags of food.
"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. "U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the matter and has alerted the DHS Office of Inspector General."
Paul Ratje, who covers incidents on the border, captured the horrific scene on camera and explained the terror he witnessed.
"I thought the Haitians were quite scared, and I think there was probably some panic, which resulted in them trying to run around the horses," Ratje told NPR's Morning Edition.
Congressman Bennie Thompson, the Democratic chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, stated that the mistreatment of Haitian migrants was "disturbing" and “contrary to U.S. values.”
"I call on Secretary Mayorkas to take immediate action to hold those responsible accountable and ensure that all migrants are treated in accordance with the law and basic decency, as this Administration has promised to do since day one," Thompson said.
Amid the chaos, in an afternoon press conference, Alejandro Mayorkas of Homeland Security and U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz didn't see anything wrong with the aggressive treatment of Haitian migrants by the agents.
According to Mayorkas, agents were using long reins, not whips, to wield control of their horses. Ortiz said it could be difficult to differentiate between migrants and “smugglers" and he would open an investigation to make sure there were no “unacceptable” actions by the agents.
As EBONY previously reported, the Biden administration began deporting Haitian migrants back to Haiti on Sunday. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency began flying eight deportation flights to Haiti with plans to increase the number to 10 per week. Deportation flights were deployed in response to the large number of Haitians entering the U.S. To justify the mass deportations, the administration has used Title 42 to ramp up the removal of migrants without allowing them to apply for U.S. protection.
The policy was first enacted in March 2020 and the Biden administration has kept it enforced, citing the continuation of the coronavirus pandemic and a recent surge of migrants crossing the border.