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Review Finds Agents Used Unnecessary Force Against Black Migrants


WASHINGTON — Border Patrol agents on horseback used “unnecessary” force in September against Black migrants who crossed into Del Rio, Texas, en masse, amid a humanitarian crisis that exposed the Biden administration’s struggle to administer a record variety of southwestern border crossings.

Within the absence of clear instructions from their supervisors, the agents took commands from the Texas state police and improperly “used force or the specter of force” to drive migrants back into the Rio Grande.

These findings and others got here from an in depth review of the events of Sept. 19, when about 15,000 mostly Haitian migrants had gathered in squalid conditions underneath a bridge in Del Rio after crossing into the country from Mexico. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Skilled Responsibility released a greater than 500-page report on Friday. Notably, investigators found no evidence to corroborate allegations from migrants and others that agents used horses’ reins to whip the migrants.

But images from that day of federal agents corralling Black migrants in and across the Rio Grande proceed to attract international condemnation. Some accused the USA of discriminating against Black migrants in its immigration system, which the administration has denied.

Considered one of the pictures was imprinted on an unofficial Border Patrol commemorative coin, often known as a “challenge” coin. The agency denounced the creation of the coin, and the Office of Skilled Responsibility is investigating its origin.

While 4 agents are facing disciplinary motion for the events of that day, the report disclosed deeper problems throughout the agency on the front lines of a border crisis that continues to challenge the Biden administration.

Amongst those issues are the conflicting objectives between federal and native officers, a situation that’s poised to worsen after Texas on Thursday ordered much more local law enforcement involvement in enforcing immigration laws.

Chris Magnus, the C.B.P. commissioner, said during a news conference on Friday that the agency has made clear to its agents that they need to take orders only from their very own supervisors.

The White House on Friday condemned Texas’s latest order as one other political stunt brought by Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who often clashes with Mr. Biden.

“The immigration enforcement is a federal authority, and states mustn’t be mandating it — meddling in it,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said on Friday.

The horse patrol unit that rushed the Black migrants was carrying out a request from the Texas Department of Public Safety, relatively than Border Patrol senior leadership, exposing the dearth of federal oversight over border enforcement.

An area Border Patrol supervisor approved of the request from Texas authorities without securing approval from federal leadership. The choice to perform the operation “resulted in unnecessary use of force against migrants who were attempting to re-enter the USA with food,” the report said.

“It’s clear from the investigation that decisions made by a number of the agency’s leadership, and the dearth of appropriate policies and training, all contributed to the incident,” Mr. Magnus said. “But there isn’t any justification for the actions of a few of our personnel, including unprofessional and deeply offensive conduct.”

Mr. Magnus said one particularly denigrating comment stood out. Considered one of the agents on horseback was recorded telling a Haitian migrant, “For this reason your country’s shit because you employ your women for this.”

Mr. Magnus said that the identical agent, who’s considered one of the 4 facing discipline, steered his horse dangerously near a toddler while pursuing the migrant he had yelled at.

A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety said the agency was reviewing the report and declined to comment on its findings.

As increasingly migrants were crossing into Del Rio in the times before Sept. 19, the Border Patrol chief, Raul Ortiz, called for all available horse units to be on the river’s edge, where migrants were crossing, “as a show of force and for crowd control,” the report said.

Investigators learned that lots of the agents on horseback had undergone little if any training in crowd control and didn’t have clear directions about their operational goals.

“To me, that is less in regards to the individual agents, although they needs to be held to account for the particular unprofessional actions they took, but a failure of leadership to deal with a situation that was very much overwhelming the patrol on the time,” said Theresa Cardinal Brown, managing director of immigration and cross-border policy for the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Mr. Magnus said on Friday that the policy moving forward can be not to make use of horses for crowd control without the specific approval of the C.B.P. commissioner. Mr. Ortiz was not on the news conference on Friday, but he told investigators that he took responsibility for what happened on Sept. 19.

The news conference on the findings of the investigation was unusual. Typically, C.B.P. doesn’t publicly disclose the conclusions in these internal reviews. But during his confirmation hearing in October, Mr. Magnus pledged transparency and accountability on this report and other matters.

The 4 agents facing discipline have been moved to administrative positions. Mr. Magnus declined to explain the beneficial disciplinary motion since the review and appeal process was continuing.

On the time, President Biden promised that “those people can pay,” referring to the agents involved, which raised immediate concerns amongst some that it will not be a good investigation.

The Border Patrol union president, Brandon Judd, said that if any punishments were handed down, the agents would appeal.

“Through the due process,” Mr. Judd said, “we’ll have the option to indicate that that is nothing greater than political theater by executive branch employees to cover for a president who had no business or right to pass judgment prior to a correct investigation.”

Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the Homeland Security secretary, whose agency includes C.B.P., said that “the misconduct of several individuals doesn’t reflect the brave and distinguished service of the agents of the USA Border Patrol.” Mr. Mayorkas initially pledged the investigation would take weeks, but it surely took nearly 10 months.

Some Border Patrol agents have been outspoken about their dislike of Mr. Mayorkas and the border policies of the Biden administration. Morale amongst agents has been low for months as many have been moved into administrative jobs to assist process the hundreds of migrants who’ve been crossing into the country every day.

The Del Rio incident crystallized Mr. Biden’s struggle to make good on his promise to revive a good and orderly system to process migrants on the border, even prompting accusations that the president had grown to depend on Trump-era restrictions that had sealed the border to asylum seekers.

The findings of the Del Rio investigation come lower than two weeks after one other humanitarian crisis, when 51 migrants died after being trapped in an abandoned truck in San Antonio, intensifying criticism of the administration.

A record-high variety of border crossings prompted criticism of the administration, each from Democrats who say the president has neglected the problem and Republicans who’ve seized on the crisis for political attacks ahead of the congressional midterm elections.

The dearth of quick solutions to the soaring crossings has also been a source of frustration for Mr. Biden, based on officials conversant in the matter. He has at times criticized his top officials for the slow pace of implementing recent policies and expressed exasperation at the shortcoming of Congress to advance immigration laws, which has been a decades-long problem.

Investigators weren’t capable of interview migrants who were victims of the inappropriate treatment, but an agency official said that declarations in a civil suit against the federal government brought by a number of the migrants were closely examined and included within the 510-page report.

Since Sept. 19, the administration has put nearly 25,000 Haitians on flights back to their country, which is gripped with gang violence, worsening poverty and instability.

Critics have said that the administration is ignoring its own concerns about Haiti’s stability and mustn’t be sending vulnerable migrants back to the country. In June, the variety of expulsion flights to Haiti declined significantly after a spike in May. And in recent weeks, several thousand Haitians have been allowed to enter the country under humanitarian exemptions through certain ports of entry on the southwestern border, based on an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk publicly.

Guerline M. Jozef, the president of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, an advocacy organization, said without interviewing the victims of the incident in Del Rio, the findings of the inner review “lack any credibility.”

“If C.B.P. is really committed to the fair and just treatment of all people, as C.B.P. Commissioner Chris Magnus proclaimed today,” she said, “then they need to do an unbiased and credible investigation into the excessive force used against Haitian migrants, which starts with interviewing the victims of the abuse and other migrant witnesses.”

J. David Goodman contributed reporting from Houston.

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