Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) claimed Wednesday that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents apprehending Haitian migrants illegally entering the United States through the southern border is “worse than what we witnessed in slavery.”
“What we witnessed takes us back hundreds of years. What we witnessed was worse than what we witnessed in slavery,” Waters, who serves as the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, stated during a rainy press conference steps away from the U.S. Capitol.
“Cowboys with their reins in hand whipping black people, Haitians, into the water where they’re scrambling and falling down and all they’re trying to do is escape the violence in their country,” the longtime California Democrat added.
Democrats have seized on the images, accusing horse-mounted CBP agents of using whips to prevent migrants from attempting to cross from Mexico into Texas — a claim that agents say is patently ludicrous.
“With basic knowledge and two brain cells, anyone knows those agents use split reins. They do use them as a whip, on their horses,” one agent told Fox News. “This helps get a quicker response from the horse to move out when needed, especially when the horse may be hesitant with groups of people or other animals.”
“Again it is clear that those ‘in charge,’ a term that is disgusting to use, have no clue about our operations and frankly operate by ignorance and unhinged emotions,” the agent added.
On Wednesday, embattled Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas promised a swift investigation into the agents’ actions.
USA Today reports: “Mayorkas told the House Homeland Security Committee that an undisclosed number of agents had been placed on administrative duty as investigators examine confrontations in which some mounted agents appeared to use their reins as whips against migrants who have been surging into Del Rio, Texas.”
“I want to assure you that we are addressing this with tremendous speed and tremendous force,” Mayorkas stated. “The facts will drive the action we take.”
“It will be completed in days – not weeks,” the top Biden official added.
As of the weekend, Del Rio, Texas, Mayor Bruno Lozano said over 14,000 Haitians were forced to camp out under a bridge and awaiting processing.
Many Haitian migrants camped in the small Texas border town are being released in the United States, two U.S. officials said Tuesday, undercutting the Biden administration’s public statements that the thousands in the camp faced immediate expulsion.
Haitians have been freed on a “very, very large scale” in recent days, according to one U.S. official with direct knowledge of operations. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter and thus spoke on condition of anonymity, put the figure in the thousands.
Many have been released with notices to appear at an immigration office within 60 days, an outcome that requires less processing time from Border Patrol agents than ordering an appearance in immigration court and points to the speed at which authorities are moving, the official said.
The Homeland Security Department has been busing Haitians from Del Rio to El Paso, Laredo and Rio Grande Valley along the Texas border, and this week added flights to Tucson, Arizona, the official said. They are processed by the Border Patrol at those locations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.