Border Patrol agents used ‘unnecessary’ force in Del Rio, report says: NPR

WASHINGTON — Mounted U.S. Border Patrol officers engaged in “unnecessary use of force” against unthreatening Haitian immigrants, but did not whip any of them with their reins “intentionally or not,” a federal investigation finds. on chaotic scenes along the Texas-Mexico border last fall that drew widespread condemnation.

In a 511-page report released Friday, Customs and Border Protection blamed a “lack of control and communication” on mounted officers using their horses to block and forcibly move migrants during an influx of arriving Haitians. last September at the US border outside of Del Rio, Texas.

“We will learn from this incident and find a way to do better,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said at a press conference announcing the report. “Not everyone will like every discovery, but the investigation was thorough and fair.”

Video and photos of the incident showed officers whipping Haitians, prompting outrage from advocacy groups and civil rights leaders. The Biden administration has promised a full investigation after many in the president’s own party objected that such racially charged tactics were the kind of policies the United States was supposed to steer away from after years of bullying tactics. radical immigration under President Donald Trump.

A former police chief, Magnus took over the nation’s largest law enforcement agency in December and is being watched closely for leading the ongoing investigation. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement Friday that “the organizational failures in policy, procedures and training identified by the investigation were a disservice to officers and the public they serve.” .

Last fall, Biden called the footage of what happened “horrible” and “scandalous.”

“I promise you these people will pay,” the president said at the time. “There is an ongoing investigation at the moment and there will be consequences.”

When asked if the politically charged environment had marred the investigation, Magnus said “it was inevitable, certainly not surprising, that there was a reaction to this from the community, from the from the media, elected officials, various defense groups”.

But he said he told investigators “all of those things should be put aside, ignored.”

“I was counting on them to conduct a fair, thorough and complete investigation without paying attention to this outside influence,” Magnus said.

As of September 19, 2021, approximately 15,000 Haitian migrants have crossed from Mexico to the United States and are concentrated in an encampment under the international bridge.

Magnus said the investigation began the day after the incident and included testimony from more than 30 people, including witnesses and reporters. Investigators said they were unable to locate the Haitian migrants involved to obtain their accounts – but used statements and court documents some provided as part of lawsuits they filed against authorities Americans.

Magnus said four Border Patrol personnel have been recommended for disciplinary action for their conduct, though he declined to discuss exactly what each did to warrant possible punishment, or specify the penalties to which they might face. It comes after prosecutors declined in April to pursue criminal charges, he said.

The disciplinary action is separate from Friday’s findings and will not be announced until later. The four CBP officials have been on administrative duty since the investigation began, according to senior agency officials who briefed reporters ahead of Friday’s report.

Mark Morgan, a former acting CBP commissioner under Trump, dismissed the entire investigation as politically motivated since no Haitians were flogged.

“From the start, these agents have been defamed, lied to and vilified by almost everyone on the left,” Morgan said in a statement.

Federal investigators said no migrants were beaten with a whip, forced to return to Mexico or refused entry to the United States during the roughly 15 minutes they were forcibly blocked and moved by officers on horseback. An officer shouted inappropriate comments about a migrant’s national origin, including “You are using your wives”, while narrowly missing running his horse into a child walking nearby while pursuing a migrant.

The officers acted with the permission of their supervisor, who was unable to get advice from higher up the Border Patrol chain of command, the report said. The communication took place over a radio channel that was not recorded, further complicating the investigation of the incident.

The use of force pushed the migrants back into the Rio Grande, although they were indeed in US territory and presented no threat – which ran counter to the mission of the CBP, according to the report.

He also said the incident began after authorities from a state agency also working in the area at the time, the Texas Department of Public Safety, requested assistance from federal authorities.

The finding follows Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott this week authorizing state forces to apprehend migrants and return them to the US-Mexico border – raising questions about his state’s enforcement powers then that top GOP leaders have criticized the Biden administration for failing to rein in the growing numbers. of crossings.

Magnus said Friday that his agency has “a shared interest with Texas” in “maintaining a safe, orderly, and humane immigration process,” and that federal officials “stand ready to work with Texas to achieve these goals”.

“But the challenge is that when a state, like Texas, takes unilateral action, it makes it harder for us to do so,” he added.


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