DHS Inspector General Passes on Probe into Border Patrol Agents Accused of Whipping Migrants from Horseback

TOPSHOT - United States Border Patrol agents on horseback try to stop Haitian migrants from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas on September 19, 2021. - US law enforcement are attempting to close off crossing …
Photo by PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General (OIG) will not investigate allegations concerning Border Patrol Horse Unit activity captured in video and photographs circulated during the Haitian migrant crisis in Del Rio. The matter, announced by DHS on Tuesday, will be referred to Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Activity (OPR).

The activities in question occurred on September 19, 2021, near a makeshift outdoor encampment holding roughly 15,000 mostly Haitian migrants at the time. Video and photographs taken by freelance journalist Paul Ratje were widely circulated and sparked initial claims that agents were “whipping” migrants.

President Biden issued comments during a media event condemning the actions saying, “It was horrible what you saw, to see people treated like they did, horses run them over, people being strapped, it’s outrageous.”

Further examination however led many to concede the images showed Border Patrol agents using long reins to control the horses. The bureaucratic move signals the agency most likely believes the more extreme interpretations of events are not able to be corroborated.

The matter, now under investigation by OPR, will include a review of videos and photographs. The OPR will interview witnesses, employees, and CBP leadership. Once completed, the results of the investigation will be provided to CBP management to determine whether disciplinary action is appropriate and, if so, the specific discipline to be imposed.

Although OPR can and does consult with the United States Attorney’s Office concerning potential criminal charges as a result of an investigation, the handing off normally signals OIG’s lack of finding that a criminal violation is probable.

According to the DHS announcement, should CBP management determine administrative disciplinary action is warranted, employees will be afforded due process and any corrective actions will comport with applicable laws and regulations.  The disciplinary process, which is separate from the fact-finding investigation, is subject to certain timelines established in CBP’s labor-management agreement with the rank-and-file Border Patrol labor union, the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC).

Randy Clark
 is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol.  Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.

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