A Department of Homeland Security source with knowledge of the case says the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) has concluded its investigation into the September incident where mounted Border Patrol agents were accused of “whipping” or “strapping” Haitian migrants near Del Rio, Texas. The source notes a final decision on possible criminal charges is imminent from the Justice Department. Several agents are subject to the investigation and remain on administrative duties.
Should the DOJ choose not to pursue a criminal case, the file will return to DHS for potential administrative punishments.
The investigation began shortly after the September 19 incident near a makeshift outdoor encampment under a bridge holding roughly 15,000 mostly Haitian migrants. Activities conducted by Border Patrol agents were captured on video and still photography by freelance journalist Paul Ratje.
The images were widely circulated and sparked claims that agents on horseback were whipping migrants. Further examination however led many to concede the images showed agents using long reins to control the horses.
In a subsequent news interview, Ratje told a reporter, “I’ve never seen them whip anyone.” Ratje added, “He was swinging [the reins], but it can be misconstrued when you’re looking at the picture.”
President Joe Biden abruptly condemned the actions during a press conference:
It’s horrible what you see, what you saw, to see people treated like they did, horses really running them over, people being strapped. I promise you; those people will pay.
Initially, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas anticipated the results of the investigation would be completed within weeks and committed to making the results the public. Nearly three months have elapsed since that statement.
A November DHS statement noted the allegations of misconduct were not accepted for investigation by the DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and were passed down to the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).
Absent any criminal charges filed, employees will be afforded due process should CBP management determine administrative disciplinary action is warranted. 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.
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.