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White House investigates 'horrific' footage of Border Patrol agents confronting refugees

Viral videos which display US border patrol brutality against Haitian refugees in Del Rio, Texas, have prompted an investigation into the violent incident.

White House investigates 'horrific' footage of Border Patrol agents confronting refugees
Image Source: US Border Agents Patrol Rio Grande Valley As Migrant Crossings Drop. MISSION, TEXAS - DECEMBER 11. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Trigger Warning: Police Brutality, Discrimination Towards Migrants, Violence

In viral videos posted to the internet over the weekend, United States Border Patrol agents can be seen violently confronting Haitian refugees at the border on horseback. As a result of the videos, which have been described as "horrific" by White House press secretary Jen Psaki, the White House has launched an investigation into the incident. Reporters from Al Jazeera and Reuters confirmed that US law enforcement officers utilized aggressive tactics when confronting the refugees at a makeshift camp by the US-Mexico border near Del Rio, Texas. Thousands of refugees fled Haiti due to the devastating 2010 earthquake, but the toll of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic and a more recent earthquake in August have caused a surge in migration, CNN reports.


"I've seen some of the footage," Psaki stated at a White House press briefing on Monday. "I don't have the full context. I can't imagine what context would make that appropriate, but I don't have additional details, and certainly, I don't have additional context. I don't think anyone seeing that footage would think it was acceptable or appropriate." Footage from the incident, captured by Al Jazeera and Reuters, displays officers at the water's edge in Del Rio on horseback, swinging long reins at migrants as they crossed the border. At one point in the video, an officer's horse almost charges into one of the migrants, who falls into the water. Furthermore, a law enforcement officer can be heard stating, "You use your women? This is why your country's sh*t, because you use your women for this." (Al Jazeera English reporter John Holman published the full quote on Twitter.)


The incident took place at a crowded makeshift encampment in Del Rio, under the Del Rio International Bridge. Thousands of migrants, including families, pregnant women, and babies, live at the camp in squalid conditions. These migrants sleep in the dirt, surrounded by growing piles of garbage. They are exposed to the elements and do not have access to food and water. When pressed by reporters to respond to the situation, press secretary Psaki called the videos "horrible to watch." She stated, "I can't imagine what the scenario is where that would be appropriate, I'm certainly not suggesting that, but we've just seen the footage earlier this morning." While she did not confirm agents seen in the footage should be fired for their actions, she noted that they should "never be able to do it again." "I don't know what the circumstances would be," she added. "It's obviously horrific, the footage. I don't have any more information on it, so let me venture to do that and we'll see if there's more to convey."


Hence, the White House has launched an investigation into the incident. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas claimed his department would investigate the situation thoroughly, but defended the use of horse patrols. Highlighting the alleged "difficulty" of operating in a riverine environment on horseback, he shared in a series of tweets posted Monday evening, "[Maintaining control of the horses] so we do not get in a position where we injure a migrant as they're trying to make that treacherous trek across that river is probably more important than anything. And I'm pretty sure and confident that that's exactly what was happening, but we will certainly look into the matter, to make sure that we do not have any activity that could be construed as a response to a law enforcement effort that is unacceptable." As Haitians continue to flee a country destabilized by US imperialism (President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in July), natural disaster, and the pandemic, more than 50 Democratic lawmakers urged the Biden administration in a letter earlier this month to halt deportations to the country. If you would like to support relief efforts in Haiti, you can do so here.


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