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US border guards used 'unnecessary force' on Haitians

July 9, 2022

US Border Protection has published its over 500-page report on widely publicized incidents of violence against refugees at the US-Mexico border. The report also found that the agents used derogatory language.

A US border agent accosts Haitian migrants
The incidents were recorded and outrage spread quicklyImage: PAUL RATJE/AFP

Four employees from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are facing potential disciplinary action over their treatment of Haitian migrants after a report published Friday found that CBP agents used "unnecessary" force during a widely publicized incident at the US-Mexico border last year.

The 511-page report from the CBP's Office for Professional Responsibility looked into the events of September 19, in which officers on horseback and wearing cowboy hats were photographed chasing after refugees trying to cross the Rio Grande. In one instance, a CBP agent was photographed unfurling a cord resembling a lasso in the face of a man who was carrying a bag of food across the river to an encampment in the United States. 

While the report found that the agents engaged in "use of unnecessary force" against non-threatening asylum-seekers, and that agencts called the people derogatory names, the report stated that they did not whip anyone with their reins "intentionally or otherwise."

It did find that one agent on horseback grabbed a man and spun him around in a widely photographed moment, which also took place near the sprawling riverside encampment in Del Rio, Texas, that had formed after the rapid arrival of thousands of Haitian migrants at the border. 

Another agent, the report said, "acted in an unsafe manner by pursuing the individual he had yelled at along the river's edge forcing his horse to narrowly maneuver around a small child."

Despite the outrage, the CBP report does not name the agents, say how many agents were investigated, or clarify what disciplinary action the four are likely to face.

The report laid the blame for the incident on an unclear chain of command when Texas Department of Public Security (DPS) officials also on the scene asked for assistance from Border Patrol. 

Biden faces criticism across political spectrum

Of the roughly 15,000 Haitians who arrived at the border in September last year, about 8,000 were quickly expelled in the weeks that followed under a COVID-related regulation called Title 42.

US President Joe Biden has struggled to balance criticism from Republicans that he is not doing enough to prevent illegal border crossings at a time when attempted migration is skyrocketing and critique from progressives that he is not doing enough to protect vulnerable refugees.

es/sms (AP, Reuters)