A New Mexico man whose photographs show Customs and Border Protection agents corralling Haitian migrants on horseback said the photos could be "misconstrued" as showing agents beating them.
Paul Ratje's shots show agents riding alongside fleeing migrants near the border in Del Rio, Texas, with reins suspended, sparking fury among many Democrats and others who accused CBP of whipping them. A number of law enforcement officers firmly denied the allegations, and Ratje said the conclusions drawn by officials differ from what he witnessed.
“Some of the Haitian men started running, trying to go around the horses,” Ratje told NBC affiliate KTSM.
“I’ve never seen them whip anyone,” he said. “He was swinging it, but it can be misconstrued when you’re looking at the picture.”
Numerous Democrats expressed fury at the border agents' actions, including Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
"That is not what our policies and our training require. ... We will not tolerate mistreatment," Mayorkas said.
Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters called the treatment of the migrants "worse than slavery," while President Joe Biden said the horse-riding agents "will pay."
"There will be consequences. It's an embarrassment," Biden said Friday. "But beyond an embarrassment, it's dangerous. It's wrong."
A senior federal law enforcement denied the Democrats' characterization of agents' actions, telling the Washington Examiner that the officers were performing a "twirl of the reins" to keep people back from the horse for their safety and that no one was whipped.
For all you Twitter warriors out there: these are NOT whips. And no, Border Patrol agents are NOT "whipping" people.
They are REINS... Stay with us here, like a steering wheel is used to drive a car, the reins are used to “drive” the horse.
Thanks for coming to our TED talk. pic.twitter.com/r0n2kXHqvy
— National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) (@GLFOP) September 21, 2021
"If they get too close to the horses, the horses could step on them, and they could break bones. They could kick them. They can get kicked in the head. It could cause death," said Brandon Judd, a border agent and the president of the National Border Patrol Council.
The White House moved swiftly to condemn the strategy after the photos surfaced and launched an investigation, and officials have since banned border agents from using horses.
The Haitians were among thousands of migrants who set up camp under a bridge near Del Rio. The Biden administration has set Friday night as a deadline to clear out the camp.
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Original Author: Jeremy Beaman